Should people be freed from trans-fats?

>> Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Washington Capitol, DCImage by FranciscoDiez via Flickr
Update: Please review the comments following this post for a change in my position on this political issue.

It seems that along with a few major cities around the nation, the entire state of California will begin banning trans fats beginning with 2010, with a grace period for some (bakeries) continuing up until 2011. While it's fantastic to see that people are finally starting actually do something about trans fats, is this the way it should be done?

In America one is supposed to have the right to live the way one wants to live, and if one makes good choices or bad, as long as no one else's rights, health, or property are injured, you're free to make those choices. One may take up the position that this kind of limitation is exactly the kind of law a Big Brother government would make, and that it is therefore wrong. Were this kind of law passed on the federal level, they'd be right. The federal government, FDA included, should not be making nation-wide laws on what we can and cannot eat. Washington would be well within its rights to place a ban on interstate sales of trans fat ingredients, of course, but all of this is beside the point.

The fact is that on a state level, this is exactly the kind of law that is justified and, I must add sadly, required. Yes, you're free to choose to eat what you'd like, but you're also not free to sell a poison off as a common, everyday food - sometimes even touting it as a "health" food. This is the true justification of a law like this, because for a corporation to sell ingredients with trans fats is a direct violation of the consumer's health.

What most will see in this law is, as I say, a sad fact that a majority of Americans are either unwilling or unable to choose healthy foods, and so the government is doing it for them. I do personally believe that most people are incapable of such choices, as I see people drinking pop or chowing down McDonald's every day, but I wish them both freedom and health, regardless of the fact that they may do nothing to protect either.

Do not focus on that latter, unfortunate truth, but instead stop letting the corporate entities bring widespread injury by allowing them to continue to pass off poison as the union of convenience and health.

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Susan Rubin,  December 30, 2009 at 11:13 PM  

Just because a food is "trans fat free" doesn't necessarily make it any healthier!
What we need is informed consent. Often times the oils replacing the bad trans fats are really no better. Cottonseed oil and soybean oils, whether hydrogenated or not, are simply not fit for human consumption.  Palm oil has other problems, including environmental impact.,  December 31, 2009 at 8:26 AM  

This is such a complex issue. We are raw milk drinkers, and tend to look at pending legislation with an eye toward what precedent that legislation might set. One small piece of the puzzle, I believe, is subsidies. Whatever our government subsidizes tends to show up on our plates in ever-increasing quantities. HFCS wasn't even a blip on the radar before the corn subsidy went into effect. I believe it is imperative to remove subsidies and allowing the individual economies involved to balance out before imposing new taxes or legislation. Oh, and yes, to expect things to get a tad worse first as these economies shift from entitlement to market.

Donald Overlander,  December 31, 2009 at 10:49 AM  

Sorry, I couldn't agree less with this being a good law at any level of Government.  Our governments are supposed to safeguard our freedoms - our right to choose.  By creating an outright ban on any item, product or service, they create a bad precedent in that ANY item could feasibly be banned.

     Additionally, the argument that a Corporation violates an individual's health by the mere fact that they sell\market a product with a particular ingredient in it is fallacious.  The violation of their health occurs at the point where they choose to ingest it - unlike dumping toxins in the ground water, an individual still has to actually consume their product for their health to be affected.

    A better law - if we really need one at all - would be to provide a stiff penalty if your company's product can be shown to have caused harm.  I would even support legislation that provided stiff consequences for intentionally misleading advertisement...though I am fairly certain this already exists.  In this way the government does not have a reason to create a State level FDA-like enforcement agency - with attendant powers to regulate...ugh.

   It would not be much of a stretch for such a "State Food and Drug Administration" to swoop down on Farmer's Markets where Mom&Pop sell homemade goods - "because they can't PROVE there are no trans-fats in those bakery items, there are no labels after all!"

   While I agree whole-heartedly with your position on Trans-fats - and for the most part do try to avoid them.  I must strenuously disagree with your support of this type of legislation being 'good' for anyone except those involved in continuing Big Government.

Psychic Lunch,  December 31, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

I absolutely agree that this reactionary kind of law is not the way we should be going about it. That is, as LocalNourishment points out, getting rid of the subsidies would be more effective and a truly lawful way of encouraging better health. Removing food subsidies would ALSO have the incredible benefit of reducing health care costs for treating the diseases this garbage causes.

I firmly believe, as well, that the food industry will go out of their way to continue using trans fats in their products despite such laws. We all know how they manipulate portion sizes and lie on their package so that they can claim 0 grams of trans-fat when such is not the case. Many people are wise to the negative health effects of MSG, but how many different ways are there of adding neurotoxins to a product? I don't even think we've come near to the end of that one. So they're absolutely going to keep adding trans fats, but they'll just call them "mono and diglycerides" (which indeed are or have trans fats) or some other new name. Susan is right - they WILL find a way to use cheap, unhealthy products to make a buck.

However, I still can't get the "infringement of rights" idea out of my head. Why is asbestos illegal in building construction? And lead in paint and toys? Have we as a people overstepped our bounds by declaring THOSE "ingredients" unlawful for those purposes, too?

Why can we not say that it is illegal to bombard an unhealthy oil, mixed with toxic metals such as aluminum, with hydrogen gas at extremely high temperatures and then sell it as a health food?

I do have to finish this by again saying that I would absolutely prefer that healthy foods be addressed in a better way.

Psychic Lunch,  January 1, 2010 at 12:04 AM  

After an offline discussion with Donald, I am going to completely back off on this, and stick with my libertarian-style beliefs, meaning that I rescind my previous position that this kind of law is good. It is such a complex issue, as localnourishment says. I dearly want people everywhere to be healthy, but as Don says we also cannot have a kind of food police, either.

I would say now that I have thought about it that this is actually a choice between freedom and health, so I must side with freedom first because without that one will eventually have nothing.

Thank you all for your feedback, and for bringing me back to the proper standing.

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About Psychic Lunch

Psychic Lunch was founded in 2009 by a nerd and father who wants people to be healthy. The information on this site is researched, but should be considered opinion; that is, you should always do your own research and come to your own conclusions about what is and what is not healthy. Products endorsed on this site are actually believed in and used by the author.


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