Cracking down on toxic food

If injecting donuts with an industrial solvent somehow improved their texture, it wouldn’t necessarily follow that adding solvents to donuts should be a matter of individual choice.

There are many reasons to applaud the city of Boston for banning trans fats, and to hope that other regulatory agencies do the same. But what often gets lost in the discussion is that most trans fats are substances unknown to nature.

The proper analogy is not If we let them ban trans fats, the next time they’ll ban cheeseburgers. It’s Why should trans fats be allowed in food when other poisonous industrial substances are not?

Trans fats are created through an industrial process: pumping hydrogen into vegetable oil, a process that produces an artificial fat that doesn’t spoil as quickly as natural fats. Trans fats raise the level of bad cholesterol and lower the good. Scientists say trans fats are more dangerous than any natural fat.

Want more proof? Michael Graham, who traveled to New Hampshire yesterday to deliver tubes of lipstick to Barack Obama, thinks trans fats are just peachy. I rest my case.

Photo (cc) by Duncan Cumming and reproduced here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “Cracking down on toxic food

  1. Gerard

    Actually, if you care to think about it for a nanosecond, citing the opinion of a person you don’t like as proof hardly counts as proof.

  2. MeTheSheeple

    What’s wrong with letting the market decide? For example, you could require labeling that clearly shows which products have trans fats.The same knife cuts both ways for competitive advantage — there’s a short-order grill place near the Newburyport District Court that was advertising more than a year ago that it did not use trans fats.Are they unhealthy? Sure. Just as are cigarettes, fast food, alcohol and a host of other things. What’s wrong with consumer education instead of legislation as a means to the solution?I’m always stunned that the biggest “free market” advocates always wind up being the same people to propose bans on smoking in bars. No one goes to a bar to get healthy. Why shouldn’t consumers have a choice — and if people don’t want to get second-hand smoke, there’s a market opportunity for an enterprising bar owner to differentiate his product.Trans fats, with a bit of public education — the cornerstone of public health initiatives — can result in educated consumers able to decide for themselves.

  3. Amused

    what’swrong with the market deciding? The consumer has no choice, thats what is wrong. You eat out, especially on the run, and you get what they make. ON the other hand, let’s let the market decideeverything. Such as t nuclear power. I know nothing about it but i’m sure i can find enough information on the web to build a backyard reactor and offer the resulting power to my neighbors — therefore it is a market issue. Sure’ we’ll tell them that my reactor might kill them, but market forces are apparenlty enough to get me to shut it down, so no need to worry

  4. MeTheSheeple

    Amused: I don’t recall anyone holding a gun to my head if I go to grab a bite. It’d be easy enough for manufactured foods — pass legislation requiring “contains trans fats” be printed in the nutrition information section near the common allergens.You could require restaurants using trans fats to post that information, prominently. If that hurts their business, that’s their problem. Consumers are free to leave, free to order the one time and never return, or free to keep returning as much as they like.Match that with a public education campaign about trans fats.Unless I missed something, why is two-thirds of your response on food ingredients somehow about back yard nuclear reactors? I never proposed “everything” be determined by the market. Do you like building strawmen, or just didn’t have anything else to do today?

  5. Peter Porcupine

    Sheep – food with trans-fat is usually labeled so now, as are trans-fat free items.As somebody who never gave up butter for margerine, this makes me smile. Trans fats only exist because of progressive goo-goo’s, convinced the world needed saving from rancidity. Sort of like how down my way, the army base was made to give up bullets because they contain LEAD, and began using enviro-approved tungsten bullets.Which proved to be more toxic than the lead.They’re going back to lead now.And butter, too.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Guns and butter!MTP: I’m curious to know what essential difference you see between trans fats and trichloroethylene. I’m not sure why a dangerous, lab-created substance is all right just because we label it as such.I’m aware that all kinds of poisonous materials are in cigarettes, but we all know that tobacco is the great exception to all governmental regulatory efforts.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Guns and butter!MTP: I’m curious to know what essential difference you see between trans fats and trichloroethylene. I’m not sure why a dangerous, lab-created substance is all right just because we label it as such.I’m aware that all kinds of poisonous materials are in cigarettes, but we all know that tobacco is the great exception to all governmental regulatory efforts.

  8. Dot Lane

    “Trans fats only exist because of progressive goo-goo’s, convinced the world needed saving from rancidity.”This response is quite literally insane. Trans fats exist because of the dictates of businesses which wanted food to have longer shelf lives, to be transported further from its place of production, as well as to reduce dependency on butterfat and lard. In other words, once invented, the market demanded hydrogenated oils. Butter scarcity drove acceptance of margarine, not fears of rancidity.

  9. MeTheSheeple

    Dan:: I’m curious to know what essential difference you see between trans fats and trichloroethylene. I’m not sure why a dangerous, lab-created substance is all right just because we label it as such.I’m not aware of any legitimate food use for TCE.Trans fats were created and adopted for legitimate economic and logistics (in a sense, food safety) reasons. When those reasons disappear, so will trans fats. If an educated public is determined to quit eating trans fats, then they will be stripped from the market. People can select foods with fewer types, lower levels or no preservatives at all.I’m not sure where the big boog-a-boo about laboratory-created foods comes from. We used to get a margarine substitute (appreciate the irony there, for a moment, if you will), which had a friggin’ patent attached to it (“Smart Balance”; tasted OK, completely unspreadable.). That was created in a lab to actually lower cholesterol.There are plenty of other useful things I ingest regularly that were created in labs. Splenda, for example, involves the sort of basic chemical manipulation of molecules that’s also used to create trans fats.At the moment, I’m indebted to science for the creation of another wonderfully ingestible thing, (+)-(S)-2-(6-methoxynaphthalen-2-yl)propanoic acid; yes, it can be dangerous when taken at the wrong levels, something above one ounce per month. Not everything coming out of a lab is bad for you; some stuff is darned helpful.I just don’t particularly see the need for banning trans fats universally. Either way, I think greater public education campaigns would greatly benefit everyone … seeing as how we’re getting much more obese as a nation.

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