Thursday, September 28, 2006

NYC Banning Trans Fats Doesn't Fix The Problem

New York City pushing more progressive government with trans fat ban

Have you heard the news about what New York City public health officials have proposed to do in that city? After their recent ban on all smoking in restaurants and bars in the Big Apple, now they want a zero tolerance policy for any restaurant cooking food in the most evil fat to ever be exposed to mankind: trans fats!

This USA Today column gives all the sordid details. The proposal states that a new regulation needs to be implemented to REQUIRE all restaurants to eliminate trans fats from their cooking procedures by April 2007. This ban on trans fats would apply to ANY business that sells food to the public in New York City. The fines that restaurants could face for not complying with this new regulation will range from $200-$2,000 per violation.

There was a second proposal on the table to also REQUIRE the restaurant chains to list the calories of their menu items in a conspicous place for consumers to know what they are eating before they purchase it. This would impact companies like Starbucks, Subway, Burger King and McDonald's, among many others. This requirement will only apply to those restaurants that already have their nutritional information provided on the Internet or in brochures by March 1, 2007.

Not surprisingly, the restaurant industry which boasts sales of a staggering $511 BILLION annually from nearly a BILLION restaurants in the United States alone, is crying foul to these proposals. They say that consumers are intelligent enough to know what the nutritional content of what they are eating before they order it and don't need such draconian measures by the government to tell them how and what to eat.

Well, that's right and it's wrong. Let me explain.

The idea of forcing a business to stop using trans fats in their products assumes that the people who are eating them don't realize what they are shoving in their mouth when they eat fast food. But this poll of Canadians released last year showed that they are more aware of trans fats now and are paying attention to that particular ingredient now more than ever before. The same probably holds true in America as well. So, the awareness of the dangers of trans fats is already there.

What a lot of people may not know about is the little trick the FDA allows companies regarding the nutritional labeling. While a food product may be deemed "trans fat-free," that does not mean there is ZERO trans fats in them! GASP! How can this be? Well with rounding that is permitted those "trans fat-free" Oreo cookies you eat may have as much as 0.49 grams per 2 cookie serving. If you eat 12 of them, then you just consumed 2.94 grams of tran fats, higher than the MAXIMUM 2 grams recommended by the American Heart Assocation. Something to think about.

At the same time, how can we trust companies like McDonald's who got into trouble earlier this year for miscalculating the amount of trans fats in their French fries? If they SAY they drop their trans fats completely, does that really mean their food will be trans fat-free? Don't bet on it. Let's forget about KFC and all the trans fats that are hidden in their food, too. Trans fats are most definitely unhealthy for you and have been scientifically proven to make people one-third fatter as well. Yikes!

So is a total ban on trans fats--A GENUINE ONE--the answer to this problem? With kids eating more fried junk food than ever before, does Big Brother government need to come in and compel behavioral change to slow down skyrocketing obesity rates?

My answer may surprise a lot of people, but I say no.

What?! But I thought you were all for helping to improve the health and weight of people? I am, but not when it is forced on businesses and people with a government mandate. Government and health leaders are proposing throwing more money at the obesity problem, but more money isn't the answer. They also want restaurants to cut their portion sizes and calories, but those things aren't the answer either.

And neither is banning trans fats in New York City restaurants. That DOESN'T fix the underlying problem that people have in this country as it relates to the foods they eat and how that impacts their weight and health. People who are obese need to be gently confronted about their weight by those friends and family members who love them the most to encourage them to start making better food choices. Educating people about making those decisions that are best for them is what is going to bring about the most change.

As much power over people as they think they have, the government cannot lose weight for you and nor should they. Obesity will not go away on its own, so the people who struggle with shedding the pounds need to find a dietary plan they can stick with and then DO IT!

It's amazing, but people are always saying to me now, "That's easy for you to say, you don't have a weight problem." That's right, I don't--ANYMORE! But it was just a little more than couple of years ago I was walking around this world as 400+ pound man looking for answers to my morbid obesity problem, too. I found the low-carb lifestyle and it changed my life forever. If you resolve today that nothing will stand in the way of your weight loss success, then IT CAN and IT WILL happen for you like it did for me. Find a plan that will work for you, implement that plan into your life, and then keep doing it forever. That is what it takes to find weight loss success.

Best of all, you won't need the government forcing it on you either!

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Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

haha, guess what jimmy? once again I disagree with you! I live in New York City, and I hope this thing passes. This isnt about solving the obesity problem, it's about solving the trans fat problem. Trans fats are poisons, plain and simple. One of today's papers drew a parallel to the ban on leads in paint - do you know how long it took the country to follow New York's lead on that issue? 18 years!!

Assuming there is a way to test and enforce this thing, it could be a great catalyst to get the McDonalds and the Burger Kings and the Krispy Kremes of the world to get off their lazy corporate butts and really find a way to make their products with healthier oils.

about the awareness issue, I think you are dead wrong. Most people I know are only vaguely aware that there is something called transfats and that they are bad and should be avoided. They will nod in agreement as they munch on their Fritos...

9/28/2006 10:34 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

IB, this issue isn't about how BAD trans fats are. Nobody is going to argue that trans fats are healthy.

The underlying issue is about whether the government should get involved. I don't think they should and people need to learn to say no without being made to. That's my position.

Do I want people to stop eating trans fats? Of course. But permanent changes in their lifestyle will NEVER happen until they make the prudent choice about what to do regarding their own health.

THANKS for sharing your opinion, even if you are, I mean, disagree with me. :D

9/28/2006 11:36 AM  
Blogger Calianna said...

The problem is that most people simply aren't *into* learning about what's good to eat.

The other day my husband went for a cholesterol test. I mentioned to him after dinner the night before that he'd just consumed an awful lot of butter at dinner to be going for a cholesterol test the very next day, so he shouldn't be surprised if his numbers are up when the results come back. (I wouldn't have mentioned it, but he won't give up his starches and sugars. I know low carb diets high in animal fats can cause your cholesterol to plummet, but in the presence of all that starch and sugar? Most likely it'll have the opposite effect.)

So what did he say next? He suggested that perhaps we should switch to margarine instead of butter if the butter would make his cholesterol higher. I mentioned that margarine is full of transfats and would be even worse for his cholesterol, and he didn't have a clue what I was talking about!

How he could *not* know about this, I don't know. We read the same newspaper every morning. We hear the same news reports. And yet, he wasn't aware of it at all.

I'm not in favor of the gov't stepping in and demanding that the transfats (or sugars or HFCS, etc) be removed from foods - but some people just aren't the least bit interested in what they put into their mouths, as long as they think it tastes good.

9/28/2006 12:27 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS for sharing your story, Calianna. I'm not saying there isn't ignorance that exists out there about trans fats. There will always be those who either don't or won't educate themselves about their health.

But that doesn't mean the government needs to step in. That is why I encourage the friends and family of overweight and obese people to intervene on their behalf. The only reason the government feels compelled to get involved in this issue is all is because we have abdicated that role of taking care of our own.

9/28/2006 12:31 PM  
Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

so I guess we should let paint manufacturers put lead back into their paints, if they want to,and let the consumers choose whether or not they want to use those products?

I suppose the only reason McDonalds uses transfats is because it's cheaper for them. Unless there is a huge consumer revolt, they will never be very motivated to change that. A law like this would change their position right quick-so, what's wrong with that?

There is a time and a place for Gov't intervention in our lives, outlawing the sale of poison is one of them, in my semi-humble opinion!

9/28/2006 1:25 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Nice try, IB! But lead in paint affects more than just the person who paints with it. Trans fats only harm the individual who consumes them. That's why they must make the choice to eat what is good for them versus those things that are not.

9/28/2006 1:51 PM  
Blogger Invisible Blogger said...

hmmmm... good point.. hmmmm.. I suppose I could go along with that. as long as trans fatty products were treated like cigarettes, you know, with a label that says something like "This product contatins ingredients that have been conclusively proven to be directly and irrefutably harmful to your health. Eat at your own risk"

9/28/2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I don't have a problem with labels, IB. GREAT IDEA!

9/28/2006 2:12 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Jimmy, I would bet you dollars to to lamb chops that "most" people either still don't know what trans fats are or don't know where they show up in our prepared food supply.

9/28/2006 3:48 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Perhaps you are right, Gary. But that doesn't give the government a right to tell businesses what they can do. If people don't know about trans fats, then the government could make good use of itself by helping to educate the public with PSAs that tell them about what trans fats are and which foods they are in. But they'll never do that since it would negatively impact business. It's a catch-22.

9/28/2006 4:27 PM  
Blogger LindaLCforLife said...

I don't know if this is true, but I saw something online regarding the genetically altered soybeans they have developed that are supposed to be less resistant to converting to trans-fats when processed may be even more harmful and carcinogenic than the original oils they have been using in foods high in trans-fats. I've noticed foods that used to have trans-fats that are now labeled trans-fat free still have partially-hydrogenated oils listed in the ingredients. That kind of scares me; but I have to find the website again to check out the science behind it.

My feeling is that I don't like the government sticking their noses in what people eat, and I doubt it is really going to make that much difference in people's awareness anyway.

9/28/2006 4:54 PM  
Blogger AnOldHouse said...

I still have a running argument with a friend of mine who insists that "Smart Balance" spread is more healthful than butter (natural sat fats-gasp!), even though I have proven to him that, although they claim the highly processed product is "trans fat free" that it does in fact contain partially hydrogenated oils, but just below the legal limit of half a gram per serving requiring a labeling disclosure.

When it comes to an ingredient in food that can no longer be considered GRAS - "Generally Recognized As Safe" for human consumption, it IS up to the government to step in and be certain that the offending substance is removed from all food products.

That the FDA once again fails to do it's job doesn't mean that New York shouldn't step up to the plate.

And the dangerous product, in this case trans fats, does indeed affect other than those who buy it...the children who eat it... because their ignorant parents bought it for them!


9/28/2006 5:16 PM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

Saying that people can choose where not to eat, when all food involved businesses have been using trans fats is a falsehood. It's no choice at all--eat out and ingest trans fats, or eat in and use the natural fats in your own kitchen.
None of us lives in a vacuum Jimmy, and when a child's dad dies from the damage caused by trans fats, all family and friends around suffer. People's lives change around the bad health of others, not to mention the health costs incurred BY EVERYONE during the attempt to curtail the damages.
When any business uses any substance that amounts to being a poison, it's up to a society to protect its members in any way that society has deemed appropriate.
Your every man for himself attitude really disturbs me sometimes.

9/28/2006 6:31 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I appreciate your sentiment, LCForevah. But I don't disagree with anything you said. My point is centered entirely around the premise that it's not the government's business to be involved in this issue. That's why I do what I do at my blog and others are doing what they are doing to promote healthy living. Compelling businesses to force their consumers into making the right choices is NOT the way to do it in my opinion. There are better ways and individual responsibility is a BIG one to me. THANKS again for sharing your thoughts!

9/28/2006 6:39 PM  
Blogger Wanda said...

The reason Canadians are aware is b/c of our PUBLIC health care.
Our gov't is involved b/c they are the ones who directly pay the bills amd decide what is covered and what isn't.
Right or wrong that is the way it is...........The Canadian gov't is getting really stingy with certain coverage and although they say our health care if for everyone, they are making rules and more rules every year.

At least everyone has coverage but when at one time everything was free, that isn't the fact anymore.
If it isn't deemed neccessary in the gov't eyes (certain blood test come to mind) you are paying.

So our free health care is not free!!!!!!!

9/28/2006 7:09 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

It shouldn't surprise you, Wanda, that I'm not a fan of socialized healthcare either. :)

9/28/2006 7:35 PM  
Blogger chartreuse said...

The problem here is that, as usual, you consider "health" and "weight loss" to be the same thing.

You're right, this law isn't going to change the number of fat people. It has NOTHING to do with weight loss at all. It is NOT aimed at reducing the number of fat people. It is NOT related to the so-called "obesity epidemic".

On the other hand, it IS aimed at improving everybody's health, both thin and fat. By replacing trans fats with regular saturated and unsaturated fats everybody will reap the health benefits.

This may come as a surprise to you but thin people get heart attacks and coronary artery disease and type II diabetes (gasp!). This is a good move for everyone, even though it has nothing at all to do with encouraging people to lose weight.

9/28/2006 8:25 PM  
Blogger AnOldHouse said...

they are the ones who directly pay the bills amd decide what is covered and what isn't.

I'd rather have more independent control over my health care, thanks.

So our free health care is not free!!!!!!!

It's NEVER been "free" because ultimately, someone has been footing the bill.

9/28/2006 8:27 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Okay Chartreuse, let's pretend this has NOTHING to do with obesity (IT DOES, but I'll concede in your hypothesis to make my point) and just health.

Nobody is MAKING people eat trans fats, nobody is MAKING people eat fast food, nobody is MAKING people stuff their faces with junk food. IT'S THEIR CHOICE!

If these businesses were shoving the food down people's throats and forcing them to swallow, then I would concede you have a point. But they are not. They are simply offering a product that the consumer wants and filling that need.

When people stop creating a demand for these trans fat-filled foods by ceasing to buy them altogether, then the market will shift to the products that people DO want instead. This is simple supply and demand which is what makes the economy work.

Putting the onus on government to force changes in supply and demand is wrong in a society that is supposedly of the people, for the people and by the people. Who are "the people?" YOU AND ME! That's why WE need to take responsibility for US and NOT the government or health officials.

PERIOD. End of story.

9/28/2006 9:57 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

You have a good point on the transfat issue, Jimmy. I would like to see a law that about listing nutritional info., though. Yeah, there's rounding, but you'll have a better idea with the information than without it.

How about smoking in restaurants and bars? They banned it here in California and I am so glad that I can go out to eat without breathing second-hand smoke. I remember going to a bar and not coughing from all the smoke around me.

Transfats effect only the eater (at least short term); smoking effects everybody in the vacinity.

9/28/2006 10:34 PM  
Blogger chartreuse said...

If this were about obesity, then saturated fats which have exactly the same number of calories as trans fats would be attacked as well. This isn't about obesity.

In most restaurants, we don't have the ability to choose trans fat free foods, because other than big chains or fast food restaurants nutritional information is generally not available. So unless we choose not to eat out at all, we don't have the opportunity to choose foods without trans fats.

Perhaps it would be acceptable if, instead, it was legislated that restaurants had to provide nutritional information about their menus, but that would be prohibitively expensive for non-chain restaurants to do, prevent them from creating new dishes as they go, etc. Eliminating trans fats seems like a more practical solution.

And the government already has tons of legislation preventing us from eating poisons or foods that are unsafe. Trans fats are artificially created poisons. The government certainly can choose to legislate against them like any other poisons. This is no different from saying that they can't pour cyanide into their foods. Trans fats are poisons.

And ultimately, the government puts out legislation that people who vote for them want. And I bet that the vast majority of voters out there don't want trans fats to be available. I certainly don't.

9/29/2006 12:45 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Jimmy, I don't agree with your take on the role of government and I think there is some room for other opinions here, and I'm surprised by your "period, end of story" remark. From what I know of you, it is out of character.

You mention that our society is "of the people, for the people and by the people", but that is a self-evident tautology as any society is made up of people. The point is that the United States government is "of the people, for the people and by the people" and that is in contrast to governments that are, say, oligarchies, autocracies, etc.

As you well know, this is stated from the very beginning in our Declaration of Independence and some of our first states, whose formal titles are "Commonwealth of". Our country and its ideals are founded on basic principles that include the notion of "common good" and "common land" as well as those which you correctly point out in your insistence on individual responsibility, the rights, responsibility, and respect for the individual, that each of us in the ideal should do our part. Of course, we also declare that each individual has the right to be left alone and live his life as he may please.

Now you may have grown up in the era of Ronald Reagan, but remember that I have grown up in the long shadow of Franklin Roosevelt, and indeed these men pushed the government in very different ways, with administrations that selectively emphasized different principles upon which our nation was founded, with different philosophies and policies for how the country should be governed. On the whole, I tend to agree much more with FDR and I've lived through quite a few decades in which taxation at the federal level was much higher (particularly taxation on the rich and corporations and in which there was less disparity between rich and poor. And there were more regulations on industry (although I'd also make the case that there may be just as many if not more now). From my own experience, I can tell you that we lived some very prosperous times in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Again, in the ideal, the government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and it is supposed to operate on our behalf. Of course, "our" is hard to define, but our system of government has proved to be one of the best in the world to serve the choices of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. Our citizens will never be in 100% agreement with one another about anything, whether it be regulations on foods and drugs, or whether we should be engaged in a war "for freedom", and we will not agree on the role of the government, whether it is just for national defense or so much more. But whatever we may want, the government is "we the people" and it acts on our behalf.

I myself don't find that a city ordinance outlawing trans fats is a particularly efficient way to get people from eating them, but in the absence of a federal law that eliminates trans fats from our food supply, it's all New York has if the representatives of the people in that city are charged with protecting the public good.

I agree this is a very complicated issue. I have also heard that there are, say, other representatives of government (that is, those who represent and make decisions for us) who believe that vitamins and supplements are a fraud and should be greatly regulated with reduced access to individuals. On this issue, I could not more strongly disagree. And I'm always disappointed that I cannot get some of the raw milk cheeses that I so loved when I lived in Europe because our government has prohibited their creation.

But where I come down is in support of the government as the protector of the public good and the role of the government in protecting the "commons", which might otherwise be trashed or eliminated by special interests.

This is the reason, for example, that New York City, as well as most other cities and towns across our land, have departments of Public Health, with health inspectors that visit restaurants and conduct spot checks.

It's because we the people have decided that this is a good idea, moreover because as an individual, I don't have the time (neither might I know what to look for, aside from a dirty kitchen) to learn what is pernicious and to decide in my busy workday which restaurants on this block might be ok to eat in and which are not.

Again, in the matter of trans fats, I don't find it an efficient approach for one city to prohibit their use in what is essentially the "public food supply". I'd rather that the Congress legislate the prohibition of the manufacture of trans fats and eliminate them from our food supply forever.

No matter how many times I tell my elders that margarine is not good for them or that they shouldn't buy those Wheat Thins because they have trans fats, they aren't going to understand, nor are they capable of changing behaviors that they have had for a half a century. And kids aren't going to stop buying Cokes and Pepsis in the schools until we take the vending machines out or stock them with more healthful items.

In matters of public health affecting the population at large, it's up to the government to act on our behalf. In this case, the case of a ubiquitous and pernicious ingredient in our food supply potentially affecting the health of millions and pushed upon us by large corporations whose main objective is in increasing the bottom line, there is definitely a case to be made for government intervention through the elimination of trans fats in the public food supply.

9/29/2006 9:17 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

p.s. Regina Wilshire has a terrific article up today that speaks to the very issue of what I call the "public food supply". Please read it. It can only serve to enrich our debate in this thread.

9/29/2006 11:03 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...


When I mentioned "period, end of story," I was referring to MY position on the issue. Of course, others may choose to disagree and that's fine. THANKS for sharing!

9/29/2006 11:14 AM  
Blogger The Happy Low Carb Taco said...

Just don't eat out. It's a waste of money, awayway.

9/29/2006 11:26 AM  
Blogger The Happy Low Carb Taco said...

Seriously people, what in heaven’s name makes you think that by removing trans-fats from Mcdonalds’ or Wendy’s or whatever will improve the health of people already eating horrible food loaded with sugar and flour? Fast food is still crap regardless if it’s fried in organic coconut oil or Crisco. Hell, it'll probably INCREASE the patronage of these places, 'cause people will think it's healthier. (IE: "Hey, it's fast food, but at least it doesn't have any trans-fats!")

I’ll tell you what, besides cost, the main reason I don’t eat at those restaurants is because of the trans-fats. Heck, with the anti-saturated fat ideology of mainstream nutrition, they’ll be having the restaurants cooking with polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which is just as bad.

It’s laughable how people seem to think that the ONLY WAY someone can get a meal is by swinging by a drive-thru. Give me a break.

But hey, I don't live in New York. Whatever.

9/29/2006 11:45 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Trans fats are used in many more food products than those served at McDonald's and Wendy's. Crisco is a trans fat.

Incidentally, modern research is overturning the verdict of the 20th century that coconut oil is unhealthful. To the contrary, it may be good for you. (Same for palm oil and certain other vegetable oils that are solid at room temperature.)

Conversely, some studies are now making the case that corn oil, once touted as a healthful replacement for Crisco in frying or for use in salad dressings, may not be good for you.

9/29/2006 12:39 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hamlin said...

The day that government acts on my behalf is the day that we change our name to "New Cuba". We most certainly DO NOT need to be interfered with! Anyone who thinks so is a communist.

9/29/2006 1:56 PM  
Blogger The Happy Low Carb Taco said...

I know coconut oil is healthy. I use it on a daily basis. I was using it as an extreme example.

I'm saying that most foods that contain trans fats in the first place are usually ultra-processed and very unhealthy. Regardless of what fat you fry crap in or use to bake crap with, it's still crap.

Removing trans fats might make that sticky bun just slightly less likely to cause a heart attack- but not enough to make a significant difference.

I just think this ban is a waste of time and meaningless if people don't eat well in the first place.

9/29/2006 2:52 PM  
Blogger LCforevah said...

The first step has to be taken somehow. Lowcarbtaco, I disagree that the ban is a waste of time since it serves as a kind of publicity for making people aware that corporations use harmful substances in products the public ingests. Would you like to go back to fifty years ago when the tobacco companies had ads with a young Mike Wallace of 60 minutes fame, telling the US public that smoking was good for you? It turns out that the corps already knew that smoking caused health problems. They were out and out lying, and many corporations still will say anything they can get away with in order to sell whatever.

9/29/2006 5:13 PM  
Blogger The Happy Low Carb Taco said...

Anyone with an internet connection or a TV knows that trans fats are bad for you. This isn't a secret, and no one is lying about anything.

9/29/2006 8:02 PM  
Blogger LindaLCforLife said...

Wasn't it the government who made the fast food companies use vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats and trans-fatty acids in the first place. I remember there being a big to-do about McDonald's being forced to take the "animal fat" out of their chocolate chip cookies too; sometime in the 80s I think.

Even if they fry fast food in trans-fat free oils that doesn't make it healthy food. Like taco said, it's still crap.

I just don't the benefit from a proposal like that. Kind of makes me wonder...why?

9/29/2006 8:16 PM  

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