The End Of Trans Fat?

The FDA is preparing to ban partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major source of trans fats in processed food. Jonathan H. Adler spots an irony:

[T]here was a time when groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest were urging fast food chains and others to replace animal fats with PHOs. So while CSPI today praises the FDA for targeting trans fats, it also celebrated decisions by fast food chains like Burger King to start using trans fat-heavy PHOs. In other words, had it not been for the food nannies, American consumption of trans fats might not have been so high in the first place.

David Harsanyi has questions:

The question you usually get in this debate goes something like this: Isn’t it government’s job to protect people from corporate malfeasance and dangerous products? Sure. But how far should government go to protect people from themselves? Trans fats are unhealthy, they aren’t hazardous. That’s a vital distinction that has been persistently muddled by groups that have spent decades trying to normalize the idea that someone else should be controlling what you eat.

Ira Stoll sees inconsistencies:

The FDA says the “trans fat” in old-fashioned margarine causes heart attacks. But plenty of other things also cause heart attacks that the Obama administration has not yet prepared to ban.

Television causes heart attacks by encouraging sitting around on the couch and watching it rather than exercising. Cigarettes cause heart attacks. The Burger King Triple Whopper Sandwich meal will give you a heart attack. Too much Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream will give you a heart attack.

Yet the FDA has it in for margarine, not for hot fudge sundaes or television or even Triple Whoppers, all of which would, under the FDA’s proposed action, remain legally available for sale, unlike margarine. … Beyond the inconsistency of it, there’s the failure to accommodate individual preferences. Margarine use in my family was a consequence in part of the Jewish religious prohibition on mixing milk and meat. If you wanted a baked potato with your steak or a chocolate chip cookie for dessert, using margarine rather than butter was the kosher approach. Other margarine consumers may be vegans for philosophical reasons involving animal rights.

Denmark imposed a strict limit on trans fats in 2003. For perspective on the current debate in the U.S., Scientific American talked to Steen Stender, a Danish trans-fat expert who lobbied for the law:

How did industry respond?

Some bakers said that what you call a “Danish” can’t be made in the right way anymore, that we can’t get it to flake in the right way. Then one baker from one of the supermarket chains found that if he used a very meticulous scheme of temperature control during incubation of the fat and other ingredients at just the right temperature and time, he could make Danishes without any trans fat. This company put up a big poster saying “Have a Danish, we are baking for your heart without trans fat.” And in no time other bakers put up signs in their windows saying, “We are baking for your heart without trans fat.” So the industry went along with this initiative.