The Checkout

Trans Fat Is Out in NYC

New York City's Board of Health has made it official: Trans fat is on its way out of Big Apple restaurants.

This was not exactly a surprise. After all, it was a foregone conclusion when the Board of Health proposed it back in September.

The restaurant industry is not happy. The city, they say, is not giving them enough time to adjust. We're talking about roughly 20,000 eating establishments. Many owners--and consumers for that matter--don't know what a trans fat is. The industry is skeptical they will get a clue by July 2007, when they have to stop frying with trans fat-laden oils, or by July 2008, when they have to get trans fat out of the rest of their menu.

(Trans fat, by the way, refers to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are used in processed foods from Krispy Kreme doughnuts to French fries (of course), and pastries. They are bad, bad, bad for you. They raise bad cholesterol levels while decreasing the good kind.)

The city has tweaked the proposal a bit to take into account restaurant industry concerns. For instance, restaurants have 18, instead of six months to get trans fat out of their foods and health inspectors won't fine them for violations during the first three months. Violations also won't prevent them from passing basic sanitation inspections, though they will be listed on the Web, so we can all play trans fat police.

Two locals in particular, Louis Nunez, president of the Latino Restaurant Association, and Richard Lipsky of the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, think ethnic restaurants are going to take the biggest hit under the ban because their owners are the least likely to know about it and have the least amount of resources to comply with it.

They point out that it took Wendy's two years to find an alternative oil for its fries--an alternative that Consumer Reports says still has trans fat in it, though far less than before.

The city says it will offer technical assistance to restaurants.

Another concern Nunez and Lipsky raise is with such a surge in demand for non-hydrogenated oil, the prices will quickly become prohibitive for mom-and-pop operations, many of which earn margins of just 3 cents for every dollar spent by customers.

What do you say? Is six to 18 months long enough? Should the city make allowances if the price of going trans fat-free pushes restaurants to the brink of bankruptcy? Or does lowering rates of heart disease trump all that?

(And please let us know if you've sample the Wendy's fries and if they taste any different.)

By Annys Shin |  December 6, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Consumer News
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I think it's a big step forward, and I hope that New York City is successful in implementing the transition. Businesses are usually quick to moan about the costs of regulation, but isn't this just a knee-jerk reaction? The underlying motive behind the Board of Health's decree is to improve the long-term health of New York's residents. Those who oppose the regulation over nickels and dimes are putting their energy in the wrong place.Substituting fats sounds relatively painless, and if restaurant associations are worried about disproportionate affects, then they should take initiative and educate their members. This is not an issue of "junk food" or quality-of-life preferences. Trans fats are dangerous, and pervasive in American foodstuffs. New York City has recognized that trans fats pose a significant social threat -- an epidemic to some degreee -- and I applaud the Board of Health for tackling the issue head on.

Posted by: Nat Fat | December 6, 2006 8:12 AM

This is very similar to when smoking was ban in restaurants. There are certain unpleasantries that just don't go with dinning. Smoking does not belong.

Unlike smoking though, trans fat does not pose a risk to others when someone eats it, so I am very surprised that this has not been challenged in court yet (it will be).

None the less, healthcare costs will continue to rise as a result of "bad eating" and "bad cooking", eventually pricing the middle class right out of it, so New York decided to do what they can to prevent this from happening. Praise to NY.

Restaurants should be held to the date, but given a few extra months to get it rolling before that can be cited for violations.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | December 6, 2006 9:23 AM

You have to be kidding me? A step forward? In which direction? Isn't anyone else bothered by the complete disregard for personal choice that is shown in a law like this? Sure, trans fats are bad for you. So are 100 different food additives. Which one should be banned next? What happened to the concept that people have the right to make informed choices based on their own situation? If I at 150lbs want to eat a fat laden fried meal once in a while, who is to say I can not?

Apparantly the government believes it is the one who's responsible to protect me and keep me healthy. My head spins when I think about the number of behaviors or activities that could be considered unhealthy and "bad" for me. I only hope that this is overturned with haste in a court somewhere in the land where the constitution is more important than the march toward a nanny state.


Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 9:26 AM

Once this ban takes effect I am going to bus Krispy Kreme dougnuts to NYC with all their transfatty goodness and make a fourtune! Who is with me?
And I have to agree with MA, why is the government deciding what I eat and don't eat? Do they think I am too stupid to figure out what is good and bad for me? I guess so, soon they'll be telling me what to wear and where I can and can't shop. Life just got a heck of a lot more boring.

Posted by: Melissa | December 6, 2006 9:35 AM

Now that New York City has graciously extended all of our lives, I wonder how they plan to improve the quality of each life they have "saved".

Now that they won't be paying for all those heart attacks and strokes and such, I wonder if they'll be giving back that money.

Now that they've taken another step down the slippery slope of the governmental control of personal lives, I wonder what will be next? What do you think? What about a polluting SUV and luxury car ban? How about a death to Twinkies crusade? Of all the problems immediately facing us, why is this one being deal with now?

It seems to me the function of government is to equalize the divide between the powerful and powerless, as well as, to educate the citizenry so they can make informed critical decisions? How does this ban contribute to either function?

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness means I have the right to fry my food in trans fat and top it with lard. I am a human being and I have the right to do stupid things. I have the right to learn from my own mistakes. It means I have the right to be free of a government that arrogantly assumes I am too ignorant to make decisions for myself.

Frankly, the government could care less whether or not I die a horrible, lingering, painful death from ingesting these substances. This ban is about money the city doesn't want to spend. Funny thing is it isn't even their money they are spending. It is yours and mine. Is this how you want your tax dollars spent?

So now that this ban is forced down our throats, let's add it to the list of things you can't do anymore. Another simple liberty gone. One more pleasure taken away by our governmental mommy and daddy. Guess we're going to bed without our dinner folks.

Perhaps you recall these simple ideas?

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness"
"Innocent until proven guilty"
"All men are created equal"

Maybe if we still taught these principles, our population wouldn't be so willing to see them disappear.

Posted by: JFR | December 6, 2006 9:42 AM

Since when is a ban on how restaurants prepare food prevent YOU from preparing it however you like? This is a public health issue, though I agree that there are arguably other issues that should maybe getting more attention. Regardless I get tired of hearing the broken logic of "regulation of companies = taking away my personal freedom." Nor does it take away a choice, it just re-frames it. Can you still choose between transfat and nontransfat? Yup, you just will have to be the one cooking.

Posted by: Um....missing the point | December 6, 2006 9:55 AM

You government haters can thank Home Rule for this matter. This is a local issue, not a national issue. Unless you live in New York 18 months from now, you can eat all the trash you want. And even then it will be challenged in court. So stop spewing government hatred and answer Annys's question.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | December 6, 2006 9:57 AM

Ban smoking because it interferes with others rights to breath clean air. Ban bad customer service as it is bad for health because it raises stress levels. Ban dependence on oil and pollution because they're bad for us. Ban terrorists because they're bad. Ban corruption in government spending and big companies because it's bad and interferes with life liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the average person. Ban stupidity because we'll all be better off without it. :)

Posted by: Chris | December 6, 2006 10:03 AM

How about we ban Chris for making no sense?

Posted by: John | December 6, 2006 10:09 AM

Maybe next NYC will legislate against that nasty New York-style pizza, where it's swimming in grease. Bleah.

Posted by: Tom T. | December 6, 2006 10:13 AM

I don't hate the government by any means.

I hate the state that our society is in where people are happy to have the government pass laws which remove personal freedoms. We are talking about a law against a food because it might make you fat if you eat too much of it. Doesn't the same logic apply to 3/4 of the foods on the grocery shelves? Cookies, most cereal, donuts, triple chocolate food cake. All bad for you if you consume too much of it.

The point is that you can not legislate good health. Trying to do so will only pull choice out of the hands of consumers who are the best informed to make decisions.

Was this voted on by the people? No.
Was this voted on by elected officials? No this was a vote by the board of health.

Your logic is backwards by the way. If YOU don't want to eat something, then YOU should avoid doing so. Don't pass a law preventing the rest of us from having an unhealthy meal every now and then.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 10:13 AM

I like the way they just f**ted off the cost of doing this for the restaurants. Just one more unfunded mandate that will cost businesses money and jobs.

Posted by: Stick | December 6, 2006 10:23 AM

Ban cell phones because they may or may not cause cancer. Did the new study find a prevailing number of cancer sufferers among users of certain brands of cell phones? ie: samsung vs nokia

Oh, I make perfect sense, if you're paying attention.

To spell it out: Where does one draw the line on what to ban? Is it IF something is bad for you, could be bad for you, or is bad for you, but is in the interests of a big company? Today Trans Fat, tomorrow, chain letters on myspace!

Posted by: Chris | December 6, 2006 10:25 AM

Law??? I don't see any "law" here. I see an arm of the government who knew they would never get a law passed, so they used their powers of regulation to get it through.

It WILL be challenged in court the first time the BOH hands down a violation for it.

I liken the BOH at the state level to that of a home owners association. They can act like they have power but when it comes to challenges to what they regulate, majority rules.

Still, I praise NY for trying to make the world a better place. It takes a big set of brass ones to force this kind of change on a free people. If nothing else, it raised awareness on a lot of other things

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | December 6, 2006 10:31 AM

I love food and personal choice. However, telling restaurants not to use trans fat is like telling them not to put poison in their food.

Posted by: foodie | December 6, 2006 10:35 AM

I encourage all of you who think that this is simply a matter of the NY gov't limiting choice to do some reading about trans fats.

These are not fats that are found in nature (for the most part), trans fats are created by hydrogenating liquid fats to make them solid at room temperature. Because of the fact that they aren't a natural, healthy fat (olive oil, canola, soybean, sunflower), they congregate in adipose tissue (i.e. the fat on your body). Once trans fat gets into your system, it's difficult to get out, BECAUSE it's artificial.

Those healthy fats I mentioned above? They can "communicate" with your body's cells to be burned for energy easily (this is through a complex system, so if you'd like, you can find out more by reading about PPARs like PPAR-gamma, PPAR-alpha, and PPAR-delta). However, trans fats can't communicate with your cells, and so remain in your system as fat more stubbornly. Not only that, their presence shifts your body's metabolism (by altering the hormones you produce) and tilts you on the path towards diabetes and heart disease.

This is not an issue of "eating unhealthy" if you want to. This is an issue of eliminating an unnatural and dangerous artificial fat product from the arsenal of cheap foods that food producers and restaurants try to use to increase their profits at their customers' expense. Because ultimately, the American taxpayer will be the one footing the bill when obesity and overweight become even larger issues -- we all pay.

A good analogy to this would be if light bulb manufacturers starting making cheaper light bulbs that emitted harmful radiation. The govt would be right to step in and prevent the use of such light bulbs in public places (protecting the public from the desire of businesses to save money by endangering their customers). But hey, you'd be free to use them in your own home (if you're ignorant and just love the "freedom" to do unhealthy things).

I'm not sure if those of you arguing for trans fats are aware that you've bought into the corporate world's propaganda that "you should smoke, eat poorly, and gain weight if you want to, you're a free person!" while the tobacco industry, food industry, and health care industry cash in on Americans' disasterously uninformed and poor judgment.

How about reading up on the issue -- the REAL issue, which I know is hard work and might require you to learn something about biology -- getting informed, and then maybe you'll understand why the experts advising the govt of NY (who already have studied trans fat absorption and its effect on the human body) came to the conclusion that trans fats should be banned.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 6, 2006 10:37 AM

We still have choices -- There must be something else on the menu that doesn't contain trans-fats. Or you can stay home and cook anything you like. Or you can load up on junk at 7-11 and eat in your car. Or you can choose not to eat in New York. People are incredibly lazy and don't want to think of preparing healthy meals. Instead, they plunk down a few dollars to have someone else cook for them. Obesity is a problem in this country and if we had more education in nutrition at earlier ages we might have be so fat. We could also get out from behind these #*&$^%@ computers and take a walk once in a while.

BTW in the smoking issue -- Years ago when I first started working I worked for a Government agency. I, a non-smoker, was assigned a desk between two chainsmokers. My clothes and hair stank and I went home with headaches every day but I had no say in the matter because I was a lowly clerical employee. Thank God somebody saw the light and the dangers in smoking. If I die of passive smoke-related lung cancer, I hope somebody sues the Government. To all you smokers out there -- You Stink.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | December 6, 2006 10:42 AM

its about time we start eliminating some of this junk that is slowly killing us.some countrys in europe have done it long ago.the medical comunity knows it bad for you. why eat poison ?

Posted by: lou | December 6, 2006 10:46 AM

R.S. - You're absolutely correct. It will be challenged in court. Do you know why? Any guess? How about because it is unconstitutional. Why doesn't that matter any more?

foodie - Poison? Not exactly. Show me a scientifically accepted study showing that the ingestion of even small amounts of trans fat directly correlating to health problems. I don't think you'll be able to find one, because it is not poison. It is just bad for you. It causes health problems if people eat too much of it and don't exercise. Sure it is worse than other foods, but it tastes good.

Like I keep saying. Leave the choice in the hands of the consumer. If they are morons or just plain weak and can't control their own body's health through balaced diet, let them deal with the consequences.

This is life in a free society. Having freedom means having the freedom to make bad decisions. Even if you don't agree with the decisions other people make it is their right to make them nonetheless, provided they do not cause direct harm to others or break law.

What's the solution? I say spend money educating consumers. I wouldn't be opposed to warning labels on menus of restaurants using trans fats.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 10:48 AM

MA, I agree with you. The PC cops are always blaming the gun for the killing, not the person. This is a case where the gun is being blamed for what the person did by pulling the trigger. It's not the restaurants fault, it's the consumers for not educating themselves and manufactures not adding things to their labels.

Remember when McDonald's had to list out all of their trans fats. Why does this not apply to every restaurant?

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | December 6, 2006 10:55 AM

belief in VA - Don't jump to conclusions. I double-majored in BIO and CompSci at BU and have a minor in Chemistry. I don't need to educate myself on how the body works.

If you read my posts I'm not claiming that trans fat isn't bad for you. I'm saying that if you treat trans-fat products like they should be and eat them in small portions, they can be part of a diet.

You're right. Americans are fat (and lazy) and most are ignorant to science in general. Those of us who are educated should not have decisions made for us when we are perfectly capable of making them ourselves.

Do you propose banning smoking as well?

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 10:57 AM

"Um...missing the point's" comment is in fact the one who is missing the point. If you think that the government will stop at forcing you to cook your own meal if you want transfat, the next step will obviously be a government ban on the manufacture of transfat. If you let the government get their foot in the door, it won't be long before we will all be eating Soylent Green.

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 11:05 AM

I can't believe the government won't let restaurants put rat droppings in their food. I'm a human being, if I want to eat rat droppings, I should have the individual liberty to do so.

Like affirmative action, bans on trans fats is a band-aid solution. Until it becomes common sense that trans fats is akin to rat droppings, the corporations can't be trusted. Because with an uninformed customer, the market cannot be free.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:08 AM

Those who complain about loss of freedom or lack of choice are also exhibiting a knee-jerk reaction. If you don't agree with the New York law, move.

Posted by: Yancey | December 6, 2006 11:09 AM

As soon as I can do some research and figure out the geographical limits of the BOH I plan to open a restaurant specializing in "tasty" trans fat foods.Thx BOH for the opportunity.

Posted by: Festus99 | December 6, 2006 11:10 AM

Big Brother strikes again. Quit telling everyone how to live and what to eat. Smoking is worse than fatty oils. I dont see anyone banning you from smoking. Its a persons choice if they want to do things thats harmful. Get a clue people. It wont be long then govt will have a noose around everything we do. Wake up!!!

Posted by: Grant Hawkins | December 6, 2006 11:22 AM

I'm always amazed that American feel that eating crappy food is a fundamental right. I missed the amendent to the constitution that guarantees the right to eat crap until your heart explodes. Meanwhile, the federal government is able to imprison its citizens indefinitely without any judicial oversight. I'll go out on a limb and suggest that our priorities as a nation are a little backwards.

Posted by: Chris H | December 6, 2006 11:24 AM

I suggest those complaining about "gov't taking away my unhealthy meals" take a step back and read up on Trans-Fat oils.

Partially-Hydrogenated oils don't make a difference in how your food tastes. The process that hydrogenates the oil only increases the quantity of cooking oil via additives that are terrible for health.

It makes no difference in the flavor of the fried chicken you eat at any grease-spoon eatery. The chains complaining the most, like KFC, McDonalds, etc have been using these oils because it's cheaper for them to use Trans-Fat oils, not because it provides you with better tasting fries...

This ban doesn't mean the end of fritters, just means you'll die much later from them.

Posted by: Sam Champion | December 6, 2006 11:36 AM

Couldn't you try a non-delicious fat? Oh, there's no such thing!
Homer Simpson

Posted by: kungfukoh | December 6, 2006 11:40 AM

The adverse effects from trans fats goes well beyond messing with your cholesterol levels and heart disease. It literally transforms a natural oil,(one that your body can process though your system) into an altered substance that the human body doesn't recognize nor know how to break down. Consuming them is literally polluting our systems, which (based on time and quantities) leads to a decline in overall health.

I was thrilled when I first heard NYC was debating this issue, and more so now that it will come to pass. As it should be a standard for the entire food industry. In my opinion the real crime is that we Americans are supposed to have an advocate on our side (The Food And Drug Administration) in which we encouraged to trust. The reality is they are nothing more then an organization for hire to give Americans a false sense of security about what is and is not good for us. It, as always comes down to money, not health and making sure profit margins are in line. Companies are allowed to poison us as long as the right people are making money over it.

We are quickly becoming (if not already) a society that doesn't care about the betterment of our society. We in every way imaginable have ingrained into us from the time we are born to serve ourselves first, with society coming in after family, friends, and animals. People don't see the benefit of a healthy well working society. It's all very sad, and will be our downfall.

Posted by: d.nardoza | December 6, 2006 11:43 AM

Get rid of the fat, especially the fat between your ears.

Posted by: Mike | December 6, 2006 11:45 AM

You all talk about the loss of personal choice. How about those of us who choose not to eat trans fats or other unhealthy products? The truth is, most food preparation takes place out of the customer's view, and the customer has no real way of knowing what is in the food. I can request no trans fat be used until I am blue in the face, but that doens't mean the line cook will pay attention. All food that is prepared with trans fat can just as easily be prepared without it -- it just won't last three months before going bad.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 11:46 AM

I guarantee you that if rat droppings tasted good someone somewhere would be selling them as food - and people would line up to buy.
If this is the sort of regulation you strongly support then you should look forward to bans on alcohol (again), tobacco, soda, coffee, tea, meat (all forms), all non-organically grown produce, and chocolate. Studies have "proven" that all of these items are just as bad for you as the evil trans fat.
I stopped eating fried foods a long time ago, but if I did have a french fry I'd want one that tastes like the trans fat brand I used to know - and I'm not willing to pay extra for a "healthy" alternative.

Posted by: i'll have mine to go | December 6, 2006 11:46 AM

I completely agree with everyone who was saying this imposes on our constitutional liberties. A warning label on products would be a great way to deal with this problem but passing a law against it is just wrong. How long before they start going after any food with more than 800 calories a serving? It doesn't matter how healthy food is if you eat too much of it and don't exercise.

Can't wait to see this one go to court.

Posted by: Jeremy | December 6, 2006 11:47 AM

disbelief in MA, here are your studies that show a small amount of trans fat is bad:

"Overall, these earlier studies suggested that the cholesterol raising effect of hydrogenated fat was somewhat lower than that of saturated fats. Only in 1990 was attention given to the fact that although trans fatty acids increase LDL [bad] cholesterol to a similar degree as saturated fat, they decrease HDL [good] cholesterol relative to both cis unsaturated or saturated fats...As a result, the net effect of trans fat on the LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio is approximately double that of saturated fat."

Mensink RPM, Katan MB. Effect of dietary trans fatty acids on high-density and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in healthy subjects. N Engl J Med 1990; 323:439-45.

Zock PL, Katan MB. Hydrogenation alternatives: effects of trans fatty acids and stearic acid versus linoleic acid on serum lipids and lipoproteins in humans. J Lipid Res 1992; 33:399-410.

Nestel P, Noakes M, Belling Bea. Plasma lipoprotein and Lp[a] changes with substitution of elaidic acid for oleic acid in the diet. J Lipid Res 1992; 33:1029-1036.

Judd JT, Clevidence BA, Muesing RA, Wittes J, Sunkin ME, Podczasy JJ. Dietary trans fatty acids: effects of plasma lipids and lipoproteins on healthy men and women. Am J Clin Nutr 1994; 59:861-868.

Judd J, Baer D, Clevidence B, et al. Blood lipid and lipoprotein modifying effects of trans monounsaturated fatty acids compared to carbohydrate, oleic acid, stearic acid, and C 12:0-16:0 saturated fatty acids in men fed controlled diets (abstract). FASEB J 1998; 12:1339.

Sundram K, Ismail A, Hayes KC, Jeyamalar R, Pathmanathan R. Trans (elaidic) fatty acids adversely affect the lipoprotein profile relative to specific saturated fatty acids in humans. J Nutr 1997; 127:514S-520S.

"The strongest epidemiological evidence relating dietary factors to risk of CHD is provided by prospective investigations. The relation between trans fatty acids intake and risk of coronary disease has now been reported from three large cohort studies, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene study (ATBC)38 and the Nurses Health Study (NHS)...The results of each of these investigations support an adverse effect of trans fatty acids. The relative risk of coronary heart disease for a [GET THIS, JUST A] 2% increase in trans fatty acids intake was 1.36 (95% confidence interval: 1.03, 1.81) in the HPFS, 1.14 ( 0.96, 1.35) in the ATBC, and 1.93 (1.43, 2.61) in the NHS. The higher relative risk in the NHS may be related to the fact that this investigation took advantage of up to four repeated dietary measurements during the follow-up, thereby reducing the error in assessing trans consumption; in analyses using only the baseline dietary measure, the corresponding relative risk was 1.62. In all cohorts, these relative risks were considerably higher than those for saturated fat."

Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease in men: cohort follow up study in the United States. BMJ 1996; 313:84-90.

Pietinen P, Ascherio A, Korhonen P, et al. Intake of fatty acids and risk of coronary heart disease in a cohort of Finnish men: The ATBC Study. Am J Epidemiol 1997; 145:876-887.

Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Dietary fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. N Engl J Med 1997; 337:1491-1499.

London SJ, Sacks FM, Caesar J, Stampfer MJ, Siguel E, Willett WC. Fatty acid composition of subcutaneous adipose tissue and diet in post-menopausal US women. Am J Clin Nutr 1991; 54:340-345.

Hunter DJ, Rimm EB, Sacks FM, et al. Comparison of measures of fatty acid intake by subcutaneous fat aspirate, food frequency questionnaire, and diet records in a free-living population of US men. Am J Epidemiol 1992; 135:418-427.

Pietinen P, Hartman AM, Haapa E, et al. Reproducibility and validity of dietary assessment instruments II. A qualitative food-frequency questionnaire. Am J Epidemiol 1988; 128:667-676.

Gillman MW, Cupples LA, Gagnon D, Millen BE, Ellison RC, Castelli WP. Margarine intake and subsequent coronary heart disease in men. Epidemiology 1997; 8:144-149.

(The above is from the Harvard School of Public Health).

Good luck to all of you sticking your head in the ostrich hole about trans fats. Hopefully I won't be paying for your bypass operations and diabetes medications in 40 years.

This isn't a personal choice issue. What, do you think I have the right to shoot a machine gun into a crowd because I'm free? Or is it ok to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater, because darn it, I have freedom of speech? (And gee, it's just "tasty" to make people panic). No, it's not alright to have unregulated people or industries. That's what laws and regulations are for -- to reduce the risk to innocent (and even ignorant) members of the public, who can't make informed decisions on their own.

Posted by: Happy to Oblige | December 6, 2006 12:02 PM

This is just another cage of government using divide and conquer tactics to increase its wealth and power. Just like taxes, they attack a relatively small group and the rest of us shrug as say, "glad it isn't me they are taxing / regulating."

As has been pointed out by others, if NY wants to protect its citicens, there are plenty of other, much more dangerous, activities than eating french fries. They won't ban smoking or driving cars because too many of us do it and the backlash would cost officials their jobs. They conveniently pick restaurant owners who are a numerical minority.

I wonder which non-transfat containing oil producer is behind the ban? Arent't they about to rake it in?

Posted by: Ken Hellewell | December 6, 2006 12:04 PM

Trans fats taste no different than healthy fats. If food just had a sprinkling of rat droppings, the customer wouldn't be able to tell the difference if it had none at all. Should the government lift the ban on rat droppings in food?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 12:06 PM

Thank you New York City government. I hope this becomes a trend. AMERICA NEEDS MORE REGULATION ON UNSAFE PRODUCTS -- NOT LESS, especially when it comes to product safety. Consumers have a right to be free of poisons in their food. We have a right to be free of unsafe products of any kind, when it becomes obvious that the product harms health or safety.
Already the conservative chumps who have had their heads warped by the corporate propaganda media are whining about loss of freedom, but these incredible fools fail to see, in their dismal, narrow vision, that nobody is stopping them from eating trans fats if they want to. By all means, guys, load up and thin out the gene pool.

Posted by: James | December 6, 2006 12:15 PM

Thanks for posting the references, H.T.O. I'll take a look at them, but I'm skeptical that they will show that consuming trans-fats in _moderation_ along with a healthy lifestyle leads to direct health problems.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 12:20 PM

All of the transfat ban supporters are just not getting it. Virtually everyone would agree that transfat is bad for you. So is sugar, alcohol, white bread and a laundry list of items longer than your arm. That isn't the point. The point is that the health care insurance lobbyists and their government puppets are telling you what to eat to lower their costs and increase their profits. Here is the solution. Stop providing government funded health care and Big Brother will go away.

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 12:31 PM

Why not just require restaurants to provide nutritional information to consumers on their menus, so as to provide each individual with the right to consume what he/she wishes to consume? I'd rather just know all of that information anyway. I regularly choose restaurants that provide NI over those that don't.

Posted by: Susan in VA | December 6, 2006 12:34 PM

The NYC trans fat ban is a very interesting point of debate. While I personally applaud the decision to force restaurants to use healthier ingredients for cooking, I think it sets a precedent that, in theory at least, could lead to other restrictions in the future. That's not always a good thing.

I stopped eating trans fats about two years ago. No dietary choice that I ever made before changed what I ate quite like that one did. Truth is, trans fat is in a staggering number of foods. Just check the ingredients list. As soon as you see the words "partially hydrogenated", you know that there's trans fats there, EVEN if the Trans Fat listing in the Nutrition Facts says 0g. (There's a loophole in the regulation that I won't go into which allows companies to do this.)

Since most restaurants don't offer an ingredients listing for their menu items, consumers who avoid trans fats are often left to wonder what kind of oil their food is being cooked in. The new NYC ban would now allow people like me not to have to wonder anymore, which, truth be told, is a relief.

On the other hand, it's a little disconcerting that the government has to be the one to make this decision. Sadly, when I talk to most people about how unhealthy and prevalent trans fat is, their eyes quickly glaze over, and I can see that they probably won't be making any dietary changes based on the information they've been given.

So then, are we to assume that the government should step in to protect people from something that they may be consuming which is dangerous? Or do we say that it's up to the individual consumer to figure it all out, even when we know full well that many people will not learn or care about the dangers? What if the government decides to take aim at other unhealthful food ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, which is also pervasive?

These are questions that Americans should be asking themselves right now.

Posted by: J Stephens | December 6, 2006 12:37 PM

Perhaps two bigger issues are 1.) reforming that loophole of allowing companies to mark foods as "zero trans-fats" in the NI when partially-hydrogenated oils are, in fact, listed in the ingredients list, and 2.) REQUIRING restaurants and food vendors to provide accurate nutritional information (accurate meaning reflective of the PHOs used in preparation of the food).

Posted by: Susan in VA | December 6, 2006 12:47 PM

I don't particularly oppose a ban on smoking, either. It may harm personal choice for some, but it serves my personal choice not to ever be around second-hand smoke for any length of time. It also serves my personal choice that my tax dollars not fund indigent health care programs that treat numerous preventable health problems.

If people are truly to take responsibility for their own actions, they won't be asking Medicare and Medicaid to pay for their chemo when they get lung cancer or their heart surgery when they get clogged arteries.

If you carry personal choice to its logical conclusion, everybody dies slow and painful deaths.

Posted by: foodie | December 6, 2006 1:03 PM

To "foodie",
Your tax dollars shouldn't be used to fund ANY health care programs period. For those that think it should are probably the same people that think that the government should provide a safety net for all people for all problems (Oh, wait,.... that's uh socialism/communism). Maybe I should quit my job and cash in on every social welfare program out there (like the 99 percent of my tenants who claim to be "physically disabled" who are off hunting/fishing/you name it, while their social worker's back is turned. The whole thing is out of control. How about a flat tax to start a cure.

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 1:32 PM

disbelief in MA, I have to applaud you for your even tone and willingness to admit that trans fats may be bad despite your opposition to the ban. I appreciate that you're going to look into H.T.O.'s references. It's a relief when people seek to educate themselves, and it gives me more faith in the consumer's ability to choose for him- or herself.

However, I still don't think that everyone is educated enough to make good decisions, even the decision not to consume toxins. I encourage all of you who think that everyone can make up their own minds to spend a few years volunteering at an adult literacy center. I think it's heartbreaking that big business continually oppresses the poor and uneducated and plays on their hedonism or bad judgment to make money. "Oh, but the trans fat food is tasty!" you say. "We deserve it!" Yes, give them their bread and circuses...while big business sends us all down the path to perdition just to make a buck.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 6, 2006 1:54 PM

I don't think the restaurants should comply with this new regulation. It is the food industry itself that needs a change. They are the ones supplying the restaurants

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 2:04 PM

This is just another Example of the Government over steping its bounds. This should be fought tooth and nail. Im glad we still live in a country where idots can do stupid things, or are stupid and offencive but they are legal and so is FOOD were talking about FOOD here if some fat idiot wants to get fatter and Die at an early age let them.

Posted by: Upset_With_This | December 6, 2006 2:35 PM

To Happy To Oblige et al, here's another take on some of the research. To summarize, you always need to take a critical look at the information behind some of these "studies."

Posted by: Joe | December 6, 2006 2:38 PM

To belief in VA,
I am not willing to give up personal freedoms to save people who could care less. The exponential growth of social problems is ironically due to the programs that were created to solve them (more governmental support allows progeny to those who otherwise would be less likely to procreate). These nearsighted, oversimplistic, band-aid programs need to phase out, otherwise we will surely be, as you say, on the road to perdition.

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 2:41 PM

OK, you've worn me out and may be happy to hear that this is my last post.

To me it is not complicated. If something is truly poisonous then it should not be allowed by the FDA. That is problem #1 that government should be fixing.

If something is unhealthy in the sense of bad nutrition, then it should be up to the consumer to decide how much they want to eat of it.

I agree completely with full honest disclosure of food ingredients. Implementing that along with education would allow consumer choice to dictate what restaurants choose to serve to their willing customers. Very similar to what happened with MSG. It was not banned, it was just made to be unpopular making it in restaurants best interest to stop using it. That, my fellow Americans, is how things should work in a free market economy.

Be careful about giving away your freedoms so willingly. We could easily be having this same debate about many other food additives or alcohol, or skydiving. No one has explained the difference between one unhealthy choice and another. There is no solid way to draw the line here (which is called a slippery slope).

It is not possible to legislate our way to good health. Attempting to do this will only lead to an America where you can't choose how to live your life.

Long live lawn darts and fatty foods!!

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 2:47 PM

You know, I really hope those of you against the ban eat lots of trans fat-laden foods and fully appreciate their effects.

I, for one, like living in a land where I have the freedom to walk into a restaurant and not be served unhealthy crap, but instead get food fit for human consumption. I'm also glad I have the freedom to take safe drugs (thanks FDA), and drink pollutant-free water.

If this issue was about banning lead in drinking water in restaurants, would you be upset about your right to drink lead? No. But you know, at one time, people thought lead was perfectly safe (and even used it for plumbing -- hence the etymology of the word -- and drinking vessels). So since trans fat wasn't previously found to be unhealthy, should we impugn studies proving its harm? No. We should regulate against its use, since it is darn near ubiquitous and causes many more health problems than nonhydrogenated fats.

And WAKE UP, nice generalizations. Want to explain, then, why first-world countries with social safety nets have lower birth rates than third-world countries? Or why those that participate in govt-sponsored social programs that help them get work and education are less likely to have a high birth rate with every successive generation? Oh what's that? You get all your opinions second-hand, so you haven't actually studied the link between social programs and poverty, or birthrates? Yeah, thought so. Enjoy Fox News.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 6, 2006 3:41 PM

WAKE UP, "exponential growth of social problems...due to programs" - I think far more social problems have been created by industry and corporate profiteering than government programs. Most people aren't realizing how almost destructive socially giant companies like Wal-mart and Con-Agra can be. I think the BOH moving on this is great. Very simply, trans-fats are a type of poison created by corporations to maximize profits by creating something so artificial it can almost never spoil - it has nothing to do with personal liberties. Unless you are referring to the personal liberties you lost when Trans fats were allowed to become so common place.

Posted by: RISEN | December 6, 2006 4:05 PM

There is no safe amount of trans fat. This is broadly accepted as a true statement by the medical community.

The typical consumer does not possess information on the trans fat content in restaurant food because the number of restaurants reporting trans fat is zero or close to zero.

Furthermore, the typical consumer possesses insufficient medical knowledge to make an optimal decision on trans fat consumption.

Consumers are faced with a problem of incomplete information and thus cannot make optimal decisions on trans fat consumption. An economist would describe this as a "market failure," which in layman's terms is a situation where the free market does not produce an optimal outcome for society.

The role of the government is to intervene to correct market failures in order to obtain a better outcome for society.

In this case, the New York City Board of Health banned trans fats, which is one way to correct the market failure.

Some have argued that a better way to address the threat that trans fats pose to consumers while respecting an individual's freedom of choice would be to require restaurants to post nutritional information. I believe that this is a suboptimal solution to the problem for two reasons:

1. Typical consumer possesses insufficient medical knowledge to make an optimal decision on trans fat consumption even when this information is available.

2. Determining precise nutritional content would likely be more costly for small restaurants than switching to non-partially hydrogenated oils.

Thus, this issue requires us to weigh whether or not the positive health benefits of eliminating trans fat from food outweigh the loss of individual freedom to choose to consume foods that contain trans fat. These are hard things to compare since we cannot easily attach a value to freedom of choice.

However, consumers stand to benefit strongly from being freed from the negative health effects associated with trans fat consumption. But what are consumers really losing in terms of choice? Major snack food manufacturers have already demonstrated that they can replace trans fats without negatively affecting their products. If you have been looking at nutrition labels in the last few months, you will see that foods that contained substantial amounts of trans fat before the FDA required trans fat content on food labels have switched to other oils. Some examples are Oreos, cookies, and even some breakfast cereals. Yet they taste the same. The downside was for firms. They had to invest in research for new recipes, and they have to pay marginally more for these healthier oils.

In this case, freedom of choice is a non-issue, because substituting other oils results in foods that looks tastes the same. Yet those living in New York will now enjoy the positive health effects of prepared foods that are trans fat free.

Posted by: DMR | December 6, 2006 4:09 PM

To belief in VA,
I don't quite get the link between pro-government Fox News and my anti-government views, however, I will respond. Most third world countries are living in dictatorships, monarchies and other forms of non-democratic governments. Our country is great due to the hard won democratic government that our ancestors have fought so hard for. They would turn over in their graves if they saw how easily this generation is so willing to give in to corporate manipulation and the personal agendas of corrupt politicians. Incidently, the US continues to have the highest incidence of infant mortalities and defects in the world. How do you explain that, if not for the dillution of the gene pool due to social programs. You won't find these words at Fox.

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 4:12 PM

Disbelief in MA -- you weigh 150 lbs and you want to eat more fat? Maybe you, too, should be looking for a way to ban fat from your diet. Until fat people like you stop whining to people to give you more fat the rest of us will be terrorized by a restaurant industry that keeps secret things like nutrition information and serving size. I, personally, am happy that this industry is finally being taken down. Perhaps you should stop fighting for the freedom to be ignorant and fat and start fighting to be a knowledgeable consumer. Probably to much to ask -- but please for your sake GO ON A DIET!

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 6, 2006 4:17 PM

PS arguing slippery slope is for Kindergarten students. Please for everyone's sake learn some new "tactics" to wow message boards with. Try using an argument strategy that is logically valid. If you aren't sure of what those may be, go back to school. (Learn some nutrition while there!)

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 6, 2006 4:22 PM

WAKE UP, I think you're getting dangerous close to supporting eugenics. That's just scary, and I don't think it's a good way to demonstrate that you're not a Fox News fan.

As for giving in to corporate manipulation, what do you think of the brain-washing you've received that trans fats are tasty and you deserve them? Yeah, that couldn't be corporations trying to make money serving you junk while you happily and unquestioningly slurp it down.

And finally, nice opinion about the birthrate. Too bad that according to statistics, we're actually ranked 183 out of 225 for infant mortality incidence. That means 182 countries have worse rates than us. But I liked your little polemic -- too bad those pesky facts get in the way of your "master race" theory. (Statistics from the CIA World Factbook, Updated November 30, 2006)

Also, a little bit of study wouldn't hurt you -- you know, one of the reasons we have a high incidence of birth defects for such a wealthy country is that a lot of wealthy people undergo fertility treatments to have babies when they are actually not able to on their own. This leads to multiple births, which are fraught with complications and birth defects. And of course, higher-educated women tend to delay childbirth to their 30s or 40s, which increases risk of infant mortality and more frequent birth defects (this information is from an interview with Joyce Martin, a statistician at the CDC, from Medical News Today).

But I like the way you think. I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 6, 2006 4:29 PM

DMR -- eloquently put. I aspire to put together such a rational post someday!

You have hit a home run.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 6, 2006 4:39 PM

To Risen,
I have only slammed corporations in the above comments, so I don't quite get the link. It has been our citizens that has been asleep at the switch for so long that have allowed corrupt politicans with agendas to allow corporations to reach this level of damage to our economy. White flour was adopted by corporations because it has a shelf life far in excess of unrefined flour (not unlike tranfat). Should we next ban the high glycemic index of white flour for contributing to the worlds highest incidence of diabetes. Where does it end. People need to make their own choices. If transfat falls out of favor (like tobacco usage), it should do so in a free market, not by the heavy hand of government.

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 4:40 PM

Disgusting. The last 30 posts have missed the point entirely. This is not about a ban. Annys asked if restaurants should be held to the 18 month requirement and if anyone had tasted Wendy's newly cooked french fry? This has nothing to do with Fox News or government rule or your rights being taken away. Not one of you have answered the question at hand. This all sounds like a cry session to me.

Posted by: Radioactive Sushi | December 6, 2006 4:45 PM

Hello All! As I founding father I'm glad you've interpreted the law so correctly! Of course this will be challenged in court! That's why we fought so hard against idiots--like James Madison--who didn't think we needed a bill of rights to add it. And when we did we added in the first amendment "the right to own pets" and "the right to eat trans fats". You Americans now are so smart! Other people of my time didn't see these things in the plain language of the bill of rights. But now according to surveys a statistically significant number of people think that "the right to own a pet" is a right guaranteed by the first amendment. That's true. And now! You smart people are even on to the right to eat trans fat also guaranteed by the first amendment. GREAT WORK! We've kept it secret for so long. It was a bigger conspiracy than that (totally true) book the DaVinci Code. And, before anyone can argue otherwise, of course trans fats were around at the time of the signing of the Bill of Rights! They had been studied extensively and we had determined them to be a great means of population control. Hence, we wrote that right into the Bill of Rights. The only negative here is that some people in this country (Thomas I'm looking at you) haven't "cottoned on" to this yet. So they might try to make some sort of "original meaning" argument about how Trans Fats WEREN'T around when the Bill of Rights was signed and therefore the right to them isn't protected. If I'd have known there would be all this trouble I would have spelled more things out in the Bill of Rights -- like the fact that WOMEN were NEVER supposed to be given the right to vote.

Posted by: A founding father | December 6, 2006 4:46 PM

Dear "Disbelief AT MA"

I'm not sure what planet you live on but 5'10" and 150lbs is actually closer to underweight than overweight.

It is amazing to me that in two paragraphs you can call someone fat in a debate of ideas and then accuse THEM of using kindergarten arguments.

I admit that slippery slope is over-used jargon, but it is perfectly logical to argue that once law is passed banning one type of food simply because it can make you fat and clog your arteries, there is then legal precedent to ban any food that is bad for you.

Why don't you use your far superior 1st grade intellect to explain how we can differentiate in the future between what should and shouldn't be banned. Maybe it is my kindergarten intellect, but I don't see how it can be done.

I suggest you read my other posts before opening your mouth next time. Maybe you can say something useful.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 4:54 PM

You wrote, "The role of the government is to intervene to correct market failures in order to obtain a better outcome for society."
That is about as far away from a democracy as a country can get. I don't even know where to begin to try to respond to that, so am not even going to try(or for that matter, anything else on this message board - the tone is getting less than civil).

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 5:03 PM

WAKE UP, the reason you won't even begin to try to respond to DMR's post is probably because you never took economics.


Founding Father, I hope that you're joking. Because I'm laughing. A lot. ^_^

Posted by: belief in VA | December 6, 2006 5:10 PM

I'm ALL EMBARRASSMENT! Of course, you're underweight like everyone else in America. How silly of me. We are a nation of girls that are 5'10". I mean that's pretty much the average height now. And we all have "big statures" or "big bones" or "genetic problems" or "medical issues". You just keep thinking that. Bravo.

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 6, 2006 5:12 PM

That was probably uncalled for on my part, I apologize. It was a knee jerk reaction much as what most of these posts are. Is anyone really arguing that they want to eat more trans fats? I find that hard to believe. I think that people are just arguing because they see it as a "freedom impingement". I don't. I wish that I could go to restaurants and make healthy choices. But I can't. Because many big chains, like TGIFriday's and Damon's Sports Grill, won't post or give away nutrition info (even if you call them). So, if I can't act as my own regulator because corporations have power over me, I would rather see the government come in and regulate trans fats. I'm still "powerless" but at least now I have my best interests are being represented and not some giant corporation's best interests. If restaurants want to keep trans fats in, let them post nutrition info everywhere. Because until they do, no one can really make an "informed" choice one way or the other.

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 6, 2006 5:33 PM

I am really signing off after this one. I just couldn't let "belief in VA's" last comment go unanswered. I've taught at a world class college for over 17 years and I'll match my academic background with anyone here. But I digress. The current rules for the "economics" you refer to has been formed by our government. It has progressively deteriorated over many decades into an unstable house of cards. The government has no business in a free market. Look it up.
Signing off.

Posted by: WAKE UP | December 6, 2006 5:33 PM

Is trans fat more dangerous than alcohol. I do not know the statistics but my gut tells me that alcohol has killed a disparately larger number of people than trans fat. So why doesn't NYC ban alcohol? Because history tells us that the feds found that alcohol prohibition was unenforceable. Me thinks that NYC will find a similar situation with this trans fat ban!!!!

Posted by: senseless | December 6, 2006 7:53 PM

Wendy's fries are terrible...but then, I don't have to eat there or anywhere else.

So, why does the government have to stick their fatheats in this? Keep the heck out!

Posted by: My Time | December 6, 2006 8:15 PM

The thing the whiners don't seem to understand (despite the point made several times above) is that donuts, friends, etc. made without hydrogenated oils/trans fats don't taste any different than those made with trans fats. Trans fats don't have any flavor and are only a side-effect of the hydrogenation process.

disbelief in MA: You may want to examine the observed effect of trans fat (specifically, elaidic acid) intake upon the delta-6 and delta-9 desaturation enzymes. This is likely where the real "poison" is.

Posted by: FrankG | December 6, 2006 8:20 PM

I think it is a disaster that it is necessary to have such laws. If restaurant owners would care more about their customers than their money, they would never have used these trans-fats.

Posted by: PsyBear | December 6, 2006 9:52 PM

I just checked in to see how this all ended and realized that "Disbelief AT MA" thinks I'm a girl who is convincing myself I'm not overweight at 5'10" and 150lb.

I'm a man you moron, and I'm skinny not fat. I'll be thanking you all for preventing me from becoming fat as I buy my next pair of 30" waist jeans. Gotta love that metabolism... amazing what it can find a way to get rid of. I'm signing off and heading out for a bucket of chicken wings. Yum.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 10:14 PM

The people whining about the government taking away their "personal choice" to eat at restaurants with trans fats should also whine about the government taking away their "personal choice" to eat at restaurants with rat feces. Fight the power!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 6, 2006 10:19 PM

Yes, ban alcohol, it's far worse than trans fat. How many more innocents need to get killed by drunken drivers or wives get beaten by drunken husbands when the Jets lose?

Posted by: KRL | December 6, 2006 10:23 PM

None of the people complaining that their personal liberty is being infringed have complained that they actually want trans-fat. Furthermore, anyone who reads the recent review article

D. Mazaffarian et al "Trans Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease", New England Journal of Medicine vol 354: 1601-1613 (2006).

should have no doubt that they DO NOT want to be eating trans-fat. In particular, I quote directly from this article:

"...the consumption of trans fatty acids results in considerable harm with no apparent benefit. In addition, adverse effects are seen even at low levels of intake: 1 to 3 percent of total energy intake, or approximally 20 to 60 calories (2 to 7 grams) for a person consuming 2000 calories per day. Thus, complete or near-complete avoidance of industrially-produced trans fats-- consumption of less than 0.5 percent of the total energy intake-- may be necessary to avoid adverse effects and would be prudent to minimize health risks." (page 1609)

"...near-elimination of industrially produced trans fats might avert between 72000 (6 percent) and 228,000 (19 percent) coronary heart disease events [i.e. 'heart attacks'] each year." (page 1611)

Two of the authors in the study, D Mozaffarian and W. Willett are the most-cited authors in the academic literature in their respective fields. Additionally, Willett is the chair of Harvard's department of nutrition and author of the medical school textbook "Nutritional Epidemiology".

If that doesn't convince you to stop eating trans fat then I'd suggest you make sure you have excellent health insurance!

Posted by: Tyson | December 6, 2006 10:29 PM

You're absolutely correct. Trans fats are terribly bad for humans. No one could possibly argue with that point.

I would like to believe that we as a society can regulate ourselves, without the government stepping in. Already many fast food restaurants have stopped using trans-fats. Maybe this is due to fear of litigation and maybe for betterment of public image. Either way, they are giving in to public pressure and limiting their use of the product. This is the way it has to work.

As I said earlier, evidence was surfaced villifying MSG, and soon after chinese restaurants started posting big signs announcing that they stopped using it.

Self regulation by the citizens in a society finds a way to correct many things. Already we are on that path with trans fats. Let it go further on it's own without creating more laws. Please!

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 6, 2006 11:02 PM

Wow, WAKE UP, what courses do you teach? Making Up Statistics 101? Spouting Off Unfounded Opinions 500?

It terrifies me to think you may be teaching people. But I'm deeply amused you chose perhaps the weakest argument tack ever. You know you're losing a debate when you have to retort, "Yeah, well I'm smart."

Maybe you can use your educational benefits to take some courses on sociology, economics, statistics, etc.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 6, 2006 11:05 PM

Hey, KRL, with the way the Jets are looking this year I'd say they'll be a lot more over the next few months :)

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 7, 2006 9:30 AM

I approve the board of health's decision. The medical consensus is that trans-fats are unfit for human consumption and keeping such unwholesome items out of our food supply is exactly why we New Yorkers established our board of health. Well, that and to cut down on the typhus. Seems no one remembers the bad old days, pre DOHMH and its predecessors, when milk wholesalers would cut their product with chalky water and unhygienic butchering practices risked thousands to bacterial infection.

Posted by: Evan | December 7, 2006 11:43 PM

There's a lot I'd like to comment on, but I think there's one point in particular that everyone seems to be missing:
The government is not really taking away a freedom-- they're not saying you can't eat your doughnuts or your french fries. All they're saying is that restaurants will have to use a trans-fat alternative when preparing your food. Remember that trans-fats used in cooking are not naturally occurring-- that's right, they were manufactured to increase shelf life and are used because they are cheap to produce. There's no reason you can't enjoy your greasy food made with a healthier oil... it's not like they're banning apples, or oranges... and if you need your french fries made with trans-fats, buy a deep-fryer and do it yourself. laaazyyyyy.

Posted by: umm... | December 8, 2006 3:01 AM

Dear disbelief in MA,

Trans fats were never meant to be in food. They are chemicals which have the effects of a long-term low dose of poison eventually ending in complications and death (cancer, CHF, etc.). If McDonald's put arsenic in their food, would you fight for the right to choose not to eat there? The problem is not a loss of choice, but the fact that consumers are not educated. These companies gladly sell us food that shortens our lives, and they rely on arguments like that to distract attention from the real problem: money matters much more than the consumer.

Posted by: Nikki | December 8, 2006 7:12 AM

Another example of governments, a local government in this case, using the force of law to regulate our lives, even for very minor things, as in this case. There are millions of things that are bad for you; why should governments regulate them? And which ones out of the millions? And what about the costs of these regulations, including the hidden costs that are seldom understood, let alone revealed ? To those of you who want to "help" consumers, in this case by having New York authorities ban trans-fats, why don't you just "help" consumers by giving them some of your own money? As for New York City, your health in that city is probably more in danger from crime, which a city SHOULD take steps to reduce.

Posted by: Charlie | December 8, 2006 8:06 AM

Now children, be sure you don't eat too many trans fats. We understand you are incapable of making decisions in your own life, so we will make them for you. Nanny knows best. By the way, we will need to take some more of your money in taxes to regulate all these things we are doing for your own good. We have to hire more regulators and supervisors of regulators and directors of supervision and supervisors of directors. We have to put up billboards and make tv commercials and buy public service magazine adds. The costs add up, but it is for your own good. See, if we take enough of your money to protect you then you will not have any left to spend on all those big, bad things that can hurt you. We will, but that is none of your business.

Posted by: Dave Anthony | December 8, 2006 9:21 AM

Once again, if it is truly unfit for human consumption then the FDA should not allow it to be used in food or food making.

The fact is that the FDA does allow it, therefore there should not be laws banning it or restricting it's use.

You health nazis are forgetting or choosing to ignore the fact that if you don't want to eat it, all you have to do is avoid eating at restaurants which use it, and read the freakin food labels at the grocery store. Don't force your choice of habit or lifestyle on the rest of us.

If you want to argue for laws that require restaurants to disclose their trans-fat usage, then I'll sit quietly aside and let the arguement pan out. This is different.

This is bordering on socialism. Those of you who keep repeating the cyanide and rat dropping arguements are ignoring the fact that those are on the long list of substances the FDA has banned from human consumption. If the evidence that trans-fats = poison is so strong then take it up with the FDA.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 8, 2006 11:29 AM

[I would like to believe that we as a society can regulate ourselves, without the government stepping in.]

Me too, as I am an anarchist; unfortunately our society is comprised of human beings. Oh well, maybe one day...

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 12:26 PM


Oh yeah, the FDA has never approved anything dangerous! You're right, trans fats must be perfectly safe! What a relief it must be to trust the government so much that there's no need to do any research yourself, because you can just assume they're protecting your best interests.

...Vioxx? What's that?!

Posted by: belief in VA | December 8, 2006 1:05 PM

belief in Va:

'Research' has gotten a bad name. How many 'bad' things have been discovered by such studies only to be contradicted as 'good' things by others? Rather than read the studies we all ought to just go the the bottom line (literally and figuratively) and see who's bankrolling each study and who stands to make some 'moolah' off its results. The public interest in a lot of these studies often takes a back seat to private gain or private ax-grinding and I don't pay much attention to any of them. We are free agents in this world. Nobody holds a gun to anybody's head to make them smoke, eat fast food or drink a case of beer. What's this fetish with regulation? Leave me alone!

Posted by: Dave Anthony | December 8, 2006 1:18 PM

Why doesn't the BOH just require restaurants to list the NI of their foods?

That way, consumers who still want to eat trans fats can, consumers who aren't complete imbeciles can choose not to go to trans fats-using restaurants, and restaurants can use the "No trans fats" thing as a selling point to compete with other restaurants.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 1:33 PM

Gotta love NY. Can't wait for a flat out ban on smoking and all tobacco products, which should be on it's way. Frankly, we're just smarter than most cities, and we're not afraid to tackle obviously unhealthy things, regardless of the party leading the charge.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 2:23 PM

To those that think we are losing freedoms, you've got to be kidding me! I applaud NY for taking action against something very few people even understand. You don't have a choice to eat TF or not eat it because you have no idea what it is in. That healthy bran muffin is loaded with the stuff. How about the freedom to be able to eat a donut that hasn't been made even more unhealthy than it already was? Personal choice has never worked in eliminating harmful substances because people, by and large, don't know any better. Transfats are added to increase the length of time products can sit on a shelf. They are completely unnecessary. Go cry about the renewal of the Patriot act or something else that truly takes away some of our freedom. This is a harmful substance and should be completely eliminated from food. If you want transfats so badly, go eat some Crisco.

Posted by: Me | December 8, 2006 4:15 PM

Disbelief in MA, you are a moron if you think you are "healthy" because you are underweight. You are no more healthy than when I thought you were a girl that was overweight. Maybe before spout of your grand ideas about health and fitness you should get yourself healthy. 30 inch waist? Do you even have any muscle mass? Try this: get away from your computer and lift a weight or two. If you try I bet you can bench press the bar. That will impress the babes, maybe even enough that they won't mind that your a mindless simpleton.

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 8, 2006 4:33 PM

The transfat ban supporters have apparently forgotten how a free society is supposed to work. You vote with your feet. If the majority of people only patronize restaurants that refuse to use transfat, the transfat restaurants will suffer loss of business and either be forced to ban transfat or close. If you let officials micromanage things like transfat, you are begging them to legislate every aspect of your life, accompanied by all the attendant level upon level of expensive bureaucratic process (read - higher taxes).

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 4:50 PM

i applaud NYC and i don't see this as a personal freedom. NYers will still be allowed to indulge in the greasy goodness of french fries and fried chicken. the only difference is, they will be fried in something that won't shorten the customers life expectancy.

Posted by: KLA | December 8, 2006 9:22 PM

u all are just a bunch a babies... new york is doing this to help all of u with your health problems. Yes today it is trans-fats, and i hope its cigarettes tommorrow. The mortality rate is exponentially growing and for any of you who dont know what that means... it is growing FAST. Obesity is the same deal. NEW YORK IS DOING YOU ALL A FAVOR GET OVER IT. Besides u'll probably drown your food in salt any way. I wish north carolina would ban trans-fats too because prelonging my own life and my health are probably two things i seriously care about.

Your probably thinking, who does this guy think he is? Well the honest truth is, i am overweight by about 20 pounds, but i am relatively healthy, the reason i am overweight is because of bad decisions in buying foods containing an increased amount of trans-fats, lipids, and lots of lots of carbs. so i think it is a wonderful idea to ban trans-fats. Trust me u all will think the same in a couple of years

Posted by: tony | December 8, 2006 9:27 PM

Trans-fat is nutritionally very similar to saturated fat. Trans-fat is essentially synthetic lard. The only difference is that trans-fat is healthier for you than lard.

Manufacturers started using trans-fats because the government banned the use of animal fat in certain processed foods. Oreos, for example, used to taste fantastic when they were made with lard. Now they're just so-so.

You want to taste some great f-king doughnuts? Fry them in lard.

Ice cream is just loaded with saturated fat, and it tastes like sh*t without it.

Will all you morons still be applauding when they take the next logical step and ban ice cream?

Pathetic losers. You deserve the slavery you crave so much.

Posted by: Boris | December 8, 2006 9:36 PM

this ban is the only way to make people stop eating this trash! people really dont care about trans fats- if they did, they would never buy them in the first place.
french fries are not healthy! DUH!!!
everyone knows that but they buy them anyway.
america is getting even fatter all the time.
bans like this are needed to combat this.

next, how about outlawing smoking completely-
smoking voilates everyone else's right to breathe, and it doesnt benefit the smoker may have the freedom to kill yourself, but smoking kills everyone!

Posted by: duhhh! | December 8, 2006 9:44 PM

your missing the point boris. other things taste great without transfats. its the health issue, and i do apologize for offending anyone by saying you all cry to much. but still trans fats saturated fats all kinds of fats... they can kill you

Posted by: tony | December 8, 2006 9:45 PM

arnold says trans fats are bad for your health igwaigwaigwaigwa i am the GOVERNATOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 9:55 PM

The claim that many New York City mom-and-pop restautants "earn margins of just 3 cents for every dollar spent by customers" absolutely stretches the limits of all credulity. Not even a Salvation Army store could afford to stay in business in New York City on such pathetic margins.

Posted by: Bob | December 8, 2006 10:56 PM

I'm guessing the pro transfat ban comments have to be coming from a lobbyist for the manufacturer of a transfat substitute product(or a politician with a personal agenda - not unlike Dick Cheney), writing under different names. There just can't be that many people who don't understand the meaning of a free market. If I'm wrong, then we are closer to becoming a Socialist/Communist society than I thought.
Has David Souter's house been turned into the Liberty Hotel yet?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 10, 2006 4:22 AM

I can't believe I'm even bothering to reply to you, "Disbelief at MA." I guess I'm just argumentative.

Please stop making assumptions about my personal physique. It is irrelevant to the argument, but since you keep going there:

I'm 5'10 and 150lb because I eat right and exercise. Mountain bike, volleyball, basketball as much as possible. My diet consists of very little fast food, and plenty of fruit and fruit juices.

If you could hold a candle to any of the logical arguments I've made about the importance of protecting personal choice, including bad choice then you probably could avoid the personal attacks.

Apparently you would rather live in a world where the government makes health decisions for you. As many have pointed out, there are plenty of other "harmful substances" that could easily be banned next on the road to creating a "healthy" America by legislation.

Here is your assignment: Explain to all of us how the logic differs between banning any of the following substances [trans-fat/lard/highSodiumProducts/highFructoseCornSyrup/cigarettes/cigars/skyDiving/bungeeJumping/allSoda/caffiene]. Admittedly, some of these are not AS bad for you as trans-fat, but the logic is the same.

The only reason I originally cited my weight was in an effort to say that if a person controls their diet and does a little exercise there is no reason why eating a trans-fat laden donut every now and then will cause harm to them.

The problem seems to be that America has lost it's ability to moderate itself. People would rather pick up a bucket of KFC on the way home than cook a decent meal for their family. That way they have plenty of time to see America's next top model, or celebrity fit club.

I've never posted to a blog in my life before this one, but something pisses me off about the idea of having my decisions made for me when I can handle it on my own, especially when it comes down to something as personal as what I put in my body. I don't need laws to tell me what to eat and what not to eat too much of.

Accepting this kind of government regulation without a fight is nothing short of laziness and ignorance to what our society is becoming. A country full of ignorant people who refuse (and apparantly are no longer expected to) take responsibility for their own lives and the decisions they make in them.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 11, 2006 10:01 AM

Disbelief, I don't think you are being very logical. The reason that NYC has banned trans fats in RESTAURANTS, and has not made them illegal to purchase, is to preserve the rights of idiots who want to kill themselves with synthetic fats, while also preserving the rights of consumers who don't want to eat trans fats from being preyed upon by the restaurant industry, which will put anything into food unless it is banned from doing so. People on this page have rightly pointed out that rat droppings would be in our food if it weren't banned.

I think the truly ignorant and lazy are those who can't recognize that their individual freedoms are not encroached upon by regulating the food industry and who have poorly-informed opinions not supported by facts or reason. Again, I encourage you to look up some of the research on trans fats that was posted on this board, and to stop overreacting. Trans fats don't affect the taste of food, they are much less healthy than even the least healthy saturated fats, and the only reason the restaurant and food industries want them around is because they have long shelf life (which should be a warning sign about how unhealthy they are right there) and they are cheap substitutes for butter and other natural solid oils.

You don't needs laws to tell you what to eat, but you do need laws to protect you from powerful industries that would feed you garbage if they could get away with it. Besides, your constant claims that a little bit of trans fats never hurt anyone are patently false, considering the research that HTO posted, and to quote the health department: "there is no safe level of artificial trans fat contrast to other dietary fats which, when consumed in moderation, are a natural part of a healthy diet. Artificially produced trans fat is relatively new to our food supply and confers no known health benefit."

You are missing the issue, and your willful ignorance is tiresome. Perhaps you can contribute to a different blog, like the "kneejerk reaction blog," about how precious your right to cut off your nose to spite your face is.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 12, 2006 12:13 PM

belief in VA:

My concern is not with trans-fat as much as the countless other products that could be substituted in this same argument.

Doesn't this set a precedence that anything that can be shown to be patently bad for human consumption should be banned by the government and it's regulatory bodies?

Maybe it is a knee-jerk reaction, but I fear that America relies too much on government regulation instead of the will of the free market. I'm willing to listen to reason. If someone can explain to me how the same justification couldn't be used to ban tobacco products and crisco, then I'll stop being so belligerent.

Already many restaurants are halting use of the product. Why not let this trend continue until trans fat has the same fate as MSG?

I just wish that those who are so willing to surrender their freedom would stop volunteering to sacrifice mine in the process.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 12, 2006 12:53 PM

It is unfortunately apparent that the transfat ban supporters;
haven't gotten it,
don't get it,
and may never get it.
They are a politician's dream come true.
Nice little robots doing what they are told, quoting studies, carrying their flags and marching ever closer into socialism with every baby step Big Brother takes, with a self righteous smile all the way. They will only get it when it will be too late.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 12, 2006 1:21 PM

A few more thoughts...

I don't have a problem with the FDA banning substances that are unfit for human consumption, and if _they_ were imposing the same ban then I wouldn't say a word. I may just be cynical, but I could dig up multiple studies showing the harmful effects of just about anything. I am skeptical that if I eat a trans fat donut a week I am going to die of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

I don't know why I'm wasting my time with you. You clearly don't understand the concept of liberty.

You have the ability to not eat at restaurants serving this stuff but choose not to exercise it.

You choose to dismiss anyone opposed to your opinion as ignorant and instead of respecting their desire to make their own decisions, you continue to believe that you know best and you're doing if for America's good.

Can't you stop a minute and comprehend what this country would be like if everyone thought like this? Imagine a world where people who you disagree with started banning anything they thought you were better off without? You seem to feel that I should thank you for what you're trying to do. I do not. I resent you for your total disregard for the concept of a free society where people are given the respect to live their own life.

You are even too ignorant to realize that those arguing against this ban are not pro-transFat. They are arguing against legislation and regulations that overstep the boundaries of government.

You are a fool.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 12, 2006 1:56 PM

Here is your assignment: Explain to all of us how the logic differs between banning any of the following substances [trans-fat/lard/highSodiumProducts/highFructoseCornSyrup/cigarettes/cigars/skyDiving/bungeeJumping/allSoda/caffiene].

Quite the list--I'll do it in an exciting mini-series like format.
1) Caffeine -- there is actually some research that caffeine is GOOD for your health when consumed in moderation. Moderate consumption of 200 mg or less per day has been shown to have benefits that include not only the obvious (alertness, greater ability to concentrate) but also the less obvious - it may reduce the risk of developing gallstones, kidney stones and colorectal cancer. Undoubtedly, caffeine when used in an unsafe manner will have unsafe affects. Apparently, kids are now drinking an alarming number of energy drinks at one time to achieve a "high" from the caffeine. Caffeine at this level can be dangerous - causing things like uneven heartbeat, high blood pressure, nervousness and digestive problems. Caffeine, as evinced by research, can be consumed in safe quantities with some potential health benefits. Unlike trans fats which research has fairly consistently shown to have only negative health effects - primarily the affect it has on cholesterol - lowering good cholesterol while raising bad cholesterol.
Additionally, when you go into a restaurant I would be willing to bet (but did not find any study to corroborate this) that most Americans could point to the foods and beverages that contain caffeine fairly easily. Therefore, if they did want to avoid caffeine they would be able to. However, trans fats can be hidden in some of the most innocuous seeming menu items in restaurants. An average American would probably not be able to guess half of the foods containing trans fats on a menu.
Therefore, because caffeine can have some health benefits when consumed in moderation and because it is fairly easily avoided if one wishes to do so, it should not be banned from restaurants. Trans fats, on the other hand, have no health benefits and are not easily avoided in restaurants, therefore, they should be banned.

2) All Soda - I couldn't agree more with this. I've banned soda from my diet. It's complete crap. Should it be banned? No. Here's why.
Soda - very easy to spot. It comes in a can or a plastic bottle with all of its "cola-war" labeling telling me just what soda I'm drinking. On a menu at a restaurant it is conveniently listed on the portion of the menu that generally says "beverages" or, if in some pretentious chain like Olive Garden, it says "beverages" but in a classy foreign language. It often has a sub-heading "soda" where it proceeds to list the "cola-war" product of its choice - whichever company was lucky enough to win the bidding war. So, how do I avoid soda when I go out? Simple, I don't order it. It's not hidden in my products. I never order a cup of water only to later discover I ingested 8 ounces of soda. But that's exactly what happens with trans fats.
Trans fats aren't conveniently labeled on menus. There is no section on a restaurant's menu that says "trans fats" alerting me to the fact that I will be consuming trans fats. Trans fats are hidden in my products.
Again, it is an issue of choice. Soda shouldn't be banned because I can choose to avoid it. I can't choose to avoid trans fats because the restaurant industry WON'T TELL ME which foods contain them and in what amount.

I will continue with the rest of your list later. But for these two items I'd like it to be noted that even though I know of no study that would ever say soda is healthy, I have the CHOICE to avoid it. I think that that is a HUGE distinction from trans fats which I feel powerless to avoid as long as restaurants are allowed to not post nutritional information. Do I think trans fats should be banned from food sold in a supermarket? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Again, because it is labeled I can avoid it.

NOW HERE IS YOUR ASSIGNMENT (while I continue working on mine). How can you term the "right of the restaurant industry to use trans fats" as a "choice" for you? If you are not given any information about the amount of trans fats contained in a food is that really a choice? Isn't that essentially just letting the restaurant industry - instead of the government- make the choice of your trans fats consumption for you?

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 12, 2006 2:04 PM

One further thing, as a comment to your last post where you implored me to "imagine a world people who you disagree with started banning anything they thought you were better off without?" I don't have to imagine. I live in it. Being a woman, I see dangerous freedoms taken away everyday. The right to get an abortion, the right to have over the counter birth control, the right to NOT go for an annual papsmear/STD screen, the right to buy birth control if I'm single, the right to the morning-after pill.

Where are guy's annual STD screens? Do they not get STDs? Where is the birth control for men? Do they not contribute to pregnancy? Women bear the responsibility to prevent children and STDs and yet everyday the tools that we have to combat these issues grow more meager. Where is the outcry? Where is the outrage? Someone should find a 16 year old mother struggling to support a child and tell her that the voices that might have cried out for her freedom to go to a clinic were busy crying out for donuts and french fries.

Keep up the fine work America, keep fighting for the liberties that matter.

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 12, 2006 2:17 PM

RAH RAH sis-boom-bah, Disbelief AT MA. Let's argue for the freedoms whose lack really oppresses people in this country. It's embarrassing to me that the regulation of trans fat is considered by some a loss of freedom. Pfft, I can see that those against the ban are sheeple who follow the "proud to be 'Murican, where at least I know I'm free" crowd, not thinking individuals concerned for the freedoms of Americans or the benefit of our country as a whole. You know, I'm sure glad Disbelief in MA decided this would be his debut to posting, instead of say, posting about the erosion of rights that U.S. citizens labeled as "enemy combatants" face (illegal imprisonment? Not as imporant as my donuts!)

Disbelief isn't even worth talking to/about anymore. I mean, look at his arguments: MSG -- his precious analogy -- is not controlled in supermarkets (go in to any asian grocer and you can buy a big tub of Aijinomoto any time you like), so what "fate of MSG" is trans fats going to follow? Oh, that's right, no need to make logical arguments or have your examples make sense if you're an ignorant fool. That's so intellectually lazy -- thinking that you can just spout your opinions off and throw in similar terms and, "hey, I've got to be right because I talked about something similar and every uneducated person on earth as lazy as me would buy my argument!"

I hope you play the lottery, Disbelief, it's a good investment tool (just trust me, no need for pesky verification!)

Posted by: belief in VA | December 12, 2006 2:44 PM

Dear disbelief and belief : )

I agree with both of you about all of the freedoms that have been taken from us, but shouldn't have. I wish I stumbled across a debate about that at the time, because I would have argued with even more vigor. I am suprised that your opinion on these topics actually agrees with mine. I thought your beliefs were that the government has every right to tell you what to do with your own body.

The fate of MSG is that it was beaten into obscurity by the free market, not the government. It was not banned, but you would have a hard time finding any restaurants that serve it. At least in my area I've never seen them. I honestly do hope that that is what happens with TF - that it gets pulled willingly from restaurants and products.

Again, to me this is not about TF - it is about the government outlawing things not because they think they're poisonous, but because they are bad for you. That is why I keep bringing up the distinction of the FDA. If it is poison - BAN IT. If it is just bad for you - let the people decide what to do with it.

Disbelief, I see your logic and it makes sense. It sounds like you should be arguing for a requirement that restaurants divulge TF content in their offerings. I'm behind you on that one.

If I may ask, please address tobacco products next. Can you come up with something besides, "They don't sneak up on you."?

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 12, 2006 3:49 PM

"If I may ask, please address tobacco products next. Can you come up with something besides, 'They don't sneak up on you.'?"

I don't understand what this means.

Posted by: belief in VA | December 13, 2006 1:25 PM

I mean, according to all of the logic behind your arguments, tobacco should be banned next:
- it is without a doubt harmful
- America will not stop smoking on their own

I want to know how your "right to ban" argument can only be applied to trans fats, without future spillover into other harmful substances.

The only difference I can come up with is the "I can't avoid what I can't see" aspect of TF. If that is the only thing you can come up with then why not argue for disclosure, rather than a ban on TF?

Try to look at the argument aside from TF. Substitute product X in it's place. I want to understand how in the future we will be able to tell whether product X is ban-able.

Posted by: disbelief in MA | December 13, 2006 3:41 PM

You are right, I'm not arguing for the wholesale banning of trans fats. I don't really care what people CHOOSE to do until it affects me and my free choice -- which I feel is being done when restaurants won't disclose nutritional info. So, my solution would be to have nutritional information displayed (or at least readily available). However, I feel that people have been after the restaurant industry for a long time to do this and some national chains still refuse to do so (TGIFridays very prominently refuses to give nutritional information -- so I won't eat there because it seems very suspicious). Because of this refusal I can't make a choice and that makes me angry. But I think our views on this may be more aligned than previously thought.

I will still address cigarettes because it really is hard to distinguish if you can't use the "I know about them and can avoid them". So, I will do the best I can without resorting to that.

Cigarettes - first are always a tough one for me to argue - I really dislike the smell of smoke. They are undeniably bad for your health. And I do support bans on smoking in public places - or having very segregated smoking sections. Again, it goes back to everyone's right to choose. If a person chooses to smoke that is his choice. However, I choose not to smoke and, as smoke is something that I would be subjected to, banning it in public is a great idea. I analogize this to drinking versus driving while impaired. When you drink you determine that the "benefits" of drinking outweigh the potential risks to your health. You choose to drink and if you affect your own health - you did so knowingly and willingly. However, if you choose to drive while impaired you have taken MY choice to be safe away. That is not acceptable. Similarly, choosing to smoke is alright but taking away my choice to breath healthy air is not acceptable.

Why can't we ban them? Here's the best I could do. I'll analogize them to "free speech". I'd argue that everyone in America knows that smoking is dangerous. Every kid has seen a "lung" from a smoker. However, people still smoke and they still start smoking even when they know it is BAD. Why? Because it, like speech, conveys to people who you are. Would James Dean be who he was if he hadn't smoked? People start smoking, I'd argue, to put forth a message to the world. Much as Ayn Rand did - to hold fire in her hand and control it. It is not speech, much as burning a flag is not speech, but it still conveys non-verbally a message to the whole world - be that message "I'm powerful" or "I'm too cool for school".

Trans fats, on the other hand, conveys no message to the world. People are only now becoming aware of them. There is no iconic status associated with trans fats (unless you were to count Homer Simpson and his donuts - but even that I'd argue is about the donut and not the trans fats). No would be philosopher has proudly eaten trans fats as a statement that she has power over the elements. People who know what trans fats do aren't flocking to take them up to "make a statement".

When all else fails analogize to something protected by the Bill of Rights.

Posted by: Disbelief AT MA | December 13, 2006 4:31 PM

For a few years now nutritionists & docs have sited "The French Paradox" where it has been pointed out that despite consumption of butter, cream, fois gras, & all manner of saturated fat laden delicacies the French have low levels of heart disease & obesity (they are heavy smokers, alcohol consumers, & always on strike which speaks to their work ethic)
There is no market for trans fats in France so that should show you doubters HOW BAD TRANSFATS ARE. The French smoke, drink & are couch potatoes who eat all manner of trans fat free goodies & have low levels of heart disease, I m convinced!

Posted by: norm | December 30, 2006 6:42 PM

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