My Hometown: No to Trans Fats, Yes to Menu Labeling

I suppose it was only a matter of time. The King County Board of Health is looking at two new regulation -

  • Proposed BOH Regulation #07-01: Menu Labeling (pdf)
  • Proposed BOH Regulation #07-02: Artificial Trans Fat(pdf)

It’s difficult to defend trans fats, as the damage it can do is pretty severe. Jonathan Golob at our alt-weekly The Stranger wrote the following which explains:

In 1911 Crisco food chemists, seeking a cheaper and more-shelf-stable fat for industrial baking, came up with a clever idea: turn the bends in cheap unsaturated fats into kinks, creating trans fats. A kinked chain can pack in like a straight one, allowing tasty baked goods at a lower price. And as an added bonus, because kinked fats are unnatural, they take longer to spoil. Brilliant! But the problem is our livers hate these fats, and they protest by pumping out way less good HDL cholesterol than normal. Plus, each additional 2 percent of your calories from trans fats nearly doubles your risk of getting heart disease, which is why every reputable source agrees there is no “safe” amount of trans fat in your diet.

My preference was to let the free market work itself out, but recently it became clear that the private sector needed a little nudging from various state and local governments. I’m satisfied with this result as well. However, I do find it odd that one could technically still find trans fats at a restaurant, in the form of Pre-packaged chips or muffins sold at the counter. If one is going to institute a regulation, why leave make life difficult for the restaurateurs, who will have to recalibrate their prices and already thin profit margins, but leave the processed food producers alone? Their margins can afford the price recalibration far better than the restaurateurs.

As far as menu labeling, I’ve always been for that, especially in regard to fast food restaurants, especially those who try to pass themselves off as ‘healthy’. I’m looking at you McDonalds.