It’s time for another Law, called Kate’s Law of Inverse Misunderstanding. In this case, the law stipulates that the bigger the media push of a food/health story, the more likely that people will misunderstand it’s basic premise.
This is playing out now with the Trans fat debate, where it seems that some food producers are being asked to replace ingredients with any trans fat, including such items as butter, milk, and ground beef.
The issue revolves around the FDA.
The focus on removing trans fat has centered on the kind created by partial hydrogenation, which turns liquid oil into a solid fat like shortening that adds creaminess and shelf life to commercial baked goods and, for home cooks, makes a flaky pie crust. Trans fat is also created when certain inexpensive and sturdy oils are heated in deep-fat fryers.
But Americans eat far more artificial trans fat than natural trans fat, which is found in small amounts in butter and meat.
But to the Food and Drug Administration, which is in charge of most packaged food labeling, there is no difference between the trans fat that occurs in cows and other ruminant animals and the kind that is artificially created and favored in large-scale food manufacturing.
An F.D.A. rule that took effect in 2006 states that if a product has a half a gram or more of trans fat per serving, the amount has to go on the food label and the food can’t be called trans fat-free, even if butter is the only fat.
I think now is as good as time as any to state that I’m now anti Trans-fat bans. When companies have to start putting palm oil in pastries to replace butter, something is seriously wrong. To paraphrase the National Rifle Association, you’ll get my butter when you pry it from my cold, dead, artery-clogged hands.
I think it’s safe to say that anytime a health concern makes its way into the food marketing arena, it’s time to really examine what the heck all of the fuss is about. Clearly there are groups of companies that want to sell and market “trans fat free cupcakes” or “trans fat free
potato chips” with the belief that adding these phrases to the packaging may squeeze out another dozen sales or so.
Are these fats unhealthy? Well yes, most of them are, and if you’re concerned about this sort of thing, then don’t eat the cupcakes, muffins, potato chips, or any of the plethora of other items that contain these fats. Because when you start demanding “trans fat free potato chips” or “trans fat free cookies”, you force companies to change their recipes. These recipe changes often make the food taste different and rarely for the better.
Or to put it another way – There is no such thing as “healthy potato chips” or “Healthy French Fries”. Choosing a trans-fat free potato chip over a regular potato chip is a false rationalization. That potato chip is still unhealthy, just not as unhealthy as the one with trans fats. If you really want to eat healthy, eat more fruits and vegetables.
Because if I eve see a “trans fat free” Croissant, there’s going to be hell to pay.