Oh Deliciously Deadly Trans Fats!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

We know the stuff in them will inevitably kill us, but who doesn't occasionally indulge in a handful of hot and crispy French fries or a box of icy-glazed donuts? New York doesn't care if you do, just as long as those delectable treats don't contain any artery-clogging trans fats by July 1 of the new year. Is this law against trans fats necessary?

As a follower of the trans fat threat long before it became a widely known fact that said hydrogenated oils are potentially worse than saturated fats, I knew it would be a matter of time before they would be legally unwelcome in public restaurants.

But even as the first city to ban trans fats in public establishments, NYC is hardly the driving force behind the movement to eliminate trans in the food we consume. When the public became aware of trans fats a few years back, companies began finding new ways to prepare their products without compromising taste - and with much success.

Can you tell the difference between an Oreo today and one you enjoyed five years ago? How about a Doritos chip? Did you even know a difference existed? With companies making the transition on their own why are city legislators trying to get involved when they clearly don't have to?

Universal followed Disney having just announced that hey will begin phasing out trans fats from there theme park menus in 2007. Before you know it you won't be able to find a product with trans fats anywhere.

The point is that government intervention is not always necessary. When it does step in the consequences can be worse than the problem it tries to resolve. In an effort to protect the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke, countless restaurants and businesses found themselves closing down after devastating smoking-bans sent smokers home early with fuller wallets.

In Florida the law is extremely tough on restaurant owners and one friend of mine in particular really felt the crunch. Apparently Florida legislators and those in other states believe they should be able to decide how private restaurants should be run, even though no one is ever forced to go into one and inhale secondhand smoke. You know what you're getting into when you venture into an establishment frequented by smokers.

Similarly, you know what you're doing every time you chomp into a greasy hamburger. And by all means if that's what you want to do then you should be allowed to do it. Fortunately companies are smoothly switching from trans fats to healthier oils with not much of a cost adjustment, and patrons are hardly noticing.

Most are doing it voluntarily, and so far the NYC trans fat ban hasn't resulted in any businesses closing down. But we should not be comfortable with the government prying itself into the restaurant industry. Now it's a trans-fat ban, but what will it be tomorrow? Portion restrictions, carb limits? I wouldn't be surprised by any of it.


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