Trans fat in frozen pizza? You might not find that so terribly surprising, but it’s reason enough for a class action against Nestlé, makers of DiGiorno, Stouffer’s and California Pizza Kitchen, which flings around words like “toxic” to describe partially hydrogenated vegetable oils [LaMesa Patch]
The Boston suburb of Chelsea, emulating New York City and other municipalities, is banning trans fats in restaurant recipes effective Jan. 1, leaving bakery owner Richard Katz “vowing to stop selling pastries rather than peddle what he calls ‘awful’ tasting trans fat-free baked goods.” [Fox Boston via Keep Food Legal]
Governor Schwarzenegger has signed into law the first statewide ban on the use of the maligned ingredient by restaurants and food service facilities. (Samantha Sondag, “Gov. signs nation’s first statewide ban on trans fats in restaurants”, San Francisco Chronicle, Jul. 25).
P.S. Speaking of the nanny state in California, Los Angeles is moving to ban new fast food restaurants from poorer sections of South Central L.A. on the explicitly paternalistic grounds that it knows better than local residents what they should be eating. Prof. Bainbridge has more.
It’s going on from California to New York City: a Drew Carey feature for Reason.tv.
“In a twist of science, the law and what some call trans-fat hysteria, [New York City] wholesale bakers are being forced to substitute processed fats like palm oil and margarine for good old-fashioned butter because of the small amounts of natural trans fat butter contains.” (Kim Severson, “Trans Fat Fight Claims Butter as a Victim”, New York Times, Mar. 7). More: Feb. 15, 2005; Jun. 14, Jul. 30, Sept. 27, Oct. 16, Dec. 5, Dec. 10, 2006; Mar. 3, 2007.
While the NYC Health Commissioner was squandering the city’s credibility on trans fats (“totally replaceable“, you betcha) and hatching Big Brother schemes for diabetic-watching, the traditional and basic functions of his office, like keeping rats out of restaurants, were going untended, notes an editorial in the Post. “The Taco Bell in question had received a, you should pardon the expression, clean bill of health from one of Frieden’s restaurant inspectors 24 hours before the rats were taped doing their “Happy Feet” impressions last Thursday morning. …Of course, if the Taco Bell rats had been smoking, Frieden would have been there to nail the door shut himself.” Andrew Stuttaford at NRO thinks it’s long past time for Frieden to go. (cross-posted from Point of Law).
Today’s WSJ (sub-only) carries a letter from senior fellow Maureen Martin of Chicago’s Heartland Institute mentioning this site, and quoting from Greg Dwyer’s “letter from a new father” of Nov. 14, all in the course of arguing that a backlash may be afoot against the new food nannyism typified by Mayor Bloomberg’s trans fat ban.
Ann Althouse detects aesthetic, rather than paternalistic, origins (Dec. 9). More: Steve Chapman, “New York’s food police ride to the rescue”, syndicated/Chicago Tribune, Dec. 11; and more Althouse.
I was a guest this morning on host Marty Moss-Coane’s radio program, debating Yale professor Kelly Brownell on proposed trans fat bans. For more information on that and other food issues, see this site’s Eat Drink & Be Merry page.
P.S.: Prof. Brownell claimed the proposed New York City regulation banning most uses of trans fats wouldn’t be burdensome to restaurant owners, and quoted the owner of the Carnegie Deli, which has managed to dispense with most (though not all) use of those fats. Through the miracle of Google I was able to track down the New York Times’s coverage as we spoke and so was able to read the audience the entire quote from Carnegie Deli owner Sanford Levine, which included a portion Prof. Brownell was not so eager to quote: “They shouldn’t tell a businessman how to run a business,” Levine said. “They can make suggestions, but I don’t think it should be the law.” Prof. Brownell also claimed that there had been no great outcry in New York over the rules. The Times’s headline told a different story: “Big Brother in the Kitchen? New Yorkers Balk“.
I was a guest this afternoon on Michelle Martin’s live National Public Radio talk show, “Talk of the Nation“, discussing New York City’s proposed ban on most uses of trans fats in restaurants. ABC News “World News Tonight” also had me comment for a news segment on the issue planned for tonight’s broadcast.
On NPR, NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden claimed that it is always possible to duplicate the taste and other gustatory qualities of a trans fat recipe using other fats. For an example of a business that stumbled by buying into this particular premise, see Jun. 30 (West Virginia potato chip maker Mister Bee).
P.S. On the NPR audio clip, check out the section just before I come on where host Martin, interviewing Frieden, does a blind taste testing of two wafer cookies, one made with trans fats and one without. And here’s a mention by Bonnie Erbe at USNews.com (Sept. 27)(attributing to me “typical eloquently opinionated New York style”).
Few Gotham restaurants paid much heed when city health commissioner Thomas Frieden announced supposedly voluntary curbs on the use of partially hydrogenated fats, so now the city is planning on making the restrictions mandatory. Among many, many foods that will apparently need to be either reformulated or bootlegged: Krispy Kreme “Hot Original Glaze” doughnuts. In the New York Sun, reporter Russell Berman quotes my reaction: “When is Nurse Bloomberg planning to let us fill up our own plates?”. (“City Wants to Ban Some Fatty Foods in Restaurants”, Sept. 27; “Freedom Fries” (editorial), Sept. 27).
The mandatory-health movement is seeking to curb restaurants’ use of trans fats, often by way of lawsuit-filing (see Jun. 14) and legislation (e.g., “Alderman proposes trans fat ban”, AP/Bloomington, Ill., Pantagraph, Jun. 30, on Chicago alderman Edward Burke). So why don’t foodmakers just do the right thing and banish the offending ingredients? Parkersburg, W. Va.-based Mister Bee, the only producer of potato chips in West Virginia, found out the hard way when it replaced its hydrogenated oils with healthier cottonseed oil in its frying formula. It soon backed off after a 6 percent drop in sales and a steady flow of angry calls from buyers. The “new chip drew immediate reactions from customers who said if they wanted healthy, they wouldn’t be eating chips. Fans of the old chips said the new chip was darker in color, greasier and left an aftertaste. Mister Bee President Alan Klein acknowledged there was a ‘noticeable difference’ in the new chip’s taste after being in the package for a couple of days. The company tried modifying its recipe by using different oils, but consumers still didn’t like the new chip.” (“Customers Pan ‘Healthy’ Potato Chips”, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Jul. 19).
Chicago’s recently enacted ban on the delicacy (Apr. 27, May 4) has got Alderman Edward M. Burke thinking: now that we’ve started, why can’t the city ban less healthy frying oils and that sort of thing too? (Fran Spielman, “Alderman wants to limit fatty, fried fast food”, Chicago Sun-Times, Jun. 8).
More: In April, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by a cardiologist who averred:
Food calories are so pervasively and inexpensively available in our environment that they should be regarded as a pollutant. Just as an asthmatic can’t help but inhale pollutants in the air all around him, we Americans cannot help but ingest the calories present in the environment all around us.
(John G. Sotos, “A Modest — and Slimming! — Proposal”, Apr. 7). The Consumerist (Apr. 13) and Rogier van Bakel (Apr. 18) react with appropriate scorn. And a new report commissioned by the federal government proposes that the feds jawbone restaurants into reducing portion sizes (“FDA Report Urges Restaurants to Help Downsize America”, AP/Washington Post, Jun. 3). See also Radley Balko, Apr. 21.
…and we’re not happy about your choice of cooking oil — gee, thanks a million, Mayor Bloomberg. Andrew Stuttaford explains (NRO “The Corner”, Jan. 15).