Compare and Contrast: Trans fat Bans

Compare and contrast the following two stories:

KFC bans trans fat vs. New York looking to ban trans fat

What’s the difference here? One is a corporation reacting to market forces, the other is a government institution legislating diet and menus in restaurants. Which is the best solution in reducing trans fat intake in our citizenry?

It’s a question to which I don’t have an easy answer. My preference is for the former, but I understand that there are times that there is a need for the latter.

But first, some information – while the majority of trans fat nowadays are created by the processed food industry, it’s important to note that there are some trans fats that occur naturally, specifically amongst the milk and fat of ruminants (ie. cows, sheep, goats, etc). That means butter, milk and cheese from these ruminants all have some measure of trans fat, called Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). I don’t believe that anyone wants to go down the path that leads to the banning of milk, butter or cheese in restaurants.

What I believe the intent of the ban is to reduce or restrict items made with partially hydrogenated unsaturated plant fats (oils)…think margarine or Crisco, although there are many other products in this vein, including industrial agri-products that most food consumers likely have never come across, as they are added to things like Oreos, Fritos and Twinkies a long time prior to ending up at the supermarket.

So in reality, what people should be talking about is a ban on partially hydrogenated unsaturated plant fats and NOT a ban on trans fats, because the former is only a subset of the latter. Because of this misuse of language and misunderstanding of fat definitions, it’s already strike one against any governmental ban.

The second strike comes from my own philosophy and biases: Supply the people with enough information and they can make decisions for themselves. Can a restaurant provide me with the information needed to make informed decisions? Absolutely. In fact, KFC did just that with their press release.

It should be noted that KFC has the resources to provide such press releases. My favorite teriyaki place down the street from me most assuredly does not have the funds or pull to get that kind of press. However, it is not impossible for said teriyaki restaurant to communicate what fats and oils are used in the back room.

Is not possible for all restaurants to keep a list (available upon request) that states the
fats used in each dish? Perhaps the restaurant owners out there could give me an idea on how feasible something like that could be.

I’m of the mind that for any industry that allows for a transparency in their business practices, the government should try to refrain from imposing it’s will upon them. The restaurant industry, where production techniques are nominally known and ingredients can be easily communicated; I can’t for the life of me see why we should ban foods. Contrast this against the production techniques and processes of the industrial farms I alluded to yesterday, which are hardly known.

What it boils down to for me is whether I want the ability to make the decision of what foods I eat (based off of the best possible information), or whether I want to have the government make that decision for me.

Technorati Tags: Trans Fats, Food Bans


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