“The FDA’s move to make transfats harder to use has broad implications for consumers, businesses and the power of government to deny people meaningful choices.” It won’t be the last ingredient valued by some consumers that “public health” advocates seek to ban or limit, either. I discuss with Caleb Brown in this new Cato podcast. More background here.
Pushed by a lawsuit, the Food and Drug Administration has followed through and banned the use of trans fats in processed food: producers have three years to phase out the substance. I’ve got a new piece at Cato making a few basic points: the move is sheer paternalism, it’s setting a precedent (against voluntary consumer assumption of even small risks) that activists are eager to roll out against other ingredients like salt and sugar, it’s not popular with the public (this poll finds a plurality, not majority, going along, while this one finds majorities opposed). And voluntary consumer adjustments (trans fat consumption is down by an estimated 85 percent) have already cut Americans’ average daily intake to half of what the American Heart Association recommends.
Then there’s the sadly ironic history of the whole subject: trans fats were avidly promoted at the time by the same sorts of public health activists and government nutritionists who now push for a ban. CNN:
Dr. Steven Nissen, the chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, praised the FDA for its “bold courage” and said it “deserves a lot of credit” for taking this “enormously important” move.
“In many ways, trans fat is a real tragic story for the American diet,” Nissen said. “In the 1950s and ’60s, we mistakenly told Americans that butter and eggs were bad for them and pushed people to margarine, which is basically trans fat. What we’ve learned now is that saturated fat is relatively neutral — it is the trans fat that is really harmful and we had made the dietary situation worse.”
Or as my colleague Scott Lincicome puts it, “Food tyranny didn’t fail. It just needed better managers”
Now make way for the most popular, and still legal, substitutes for trans fats: tropical palm and coconut oils, each with problems of its own. And an even better prospect — the next panic? –is GMO-derived high-oleic soybean oil.
Don’t count on donuts, frozen pizza, coffee creamers, or canned cinnamon rolls to go on tasting the same — and don’t count on the federal government to respect your choices in the matter [Peter Suderman, earlier] And of course it was public health advocates and the federal government who helped push foodmakers into the use of trans fats in the first place. Some choices do remain to you in the realm of food, so say yes to Mark Bittman’s red lentil dal, no to his politics [Julie Kelly and Jeff Stier, Forbes]
Register here for the 5 p.m. Cato event. Description:
Featuring Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute & Editor, Overlawyered.com (@walterolson); Stacia Cosner, Deputy Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (@TheStacia); Michelle Minton, Fellow in Consumer Policy Studies, Competitive Enterprise Institute (@michelleminton); moderated by Kat Murti, Digital Marketing Manager, Cato Institute (@KatMurti).
On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, supposedly ending our nation’s failed experiment with prohibitionism. Yet, 81 years later, modern-day prohibitionists continue to deny the laws of supply and demand, attempting to control what individuals can choose to put into their own bodies.
Please join the Cato Institute for a celebration of the 81st anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition. Panelists will discuss modern prohibitions—from the Drug War to blue laws; tobacco regulation to transfats—drawing connections with their earlier antecedent.
Alcoholic beverages and other commonly restricted refreshments (bring on the trans fats!) will be served following the discussion.
#CatoDigital (formerly #NewMediaLunch) is a regular event series at the Cato Institute highlighting the intersection of tech, social media, and the ideas of liberty.
If you can’t make it to the Cato Institute, watch this event live online at www.cato.org/live and follow @CatoEvents on Twitter to get future event updates, live streams, and videos from the Cato Institute.
- Obama pick for USDA nutrition chief advances food-as-social-justice theme [Politico, Free Beacon and more, Jeff Stier/Des Moines Register]
- Hawaii GMO battle is one the whole nation should watch [Mark Strauss, io9]
- “Overprotective Government, Overweight Kids?” [Lenore Skenazy]
- “Cherry wars: The crazy economics of Michigan’s favorite pitted fruit” [Bridge Magazine]
- “FDA’s Artificial Trans Fat ‘Ban': A Dangerous Step to Control Personal Dietary Choices” [Daren Bakst, Heritage via Michelle Minton, CEI]
- And in the wings: FDA readies crackdown on salt as ingredient [AP]
- French law mandating disclosure of whether restaurant food is made in house isn’t going well [Baylen Linnekin, more]
- Gee, thanks, NIH: “Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda to Show the ‘Evils’ of Private Alcohol Sales” [Michelle Minton, CEI]
- “So this summer, under the supervision of officials from U.S. Customs, all three thousand two hundred and ninety-seven pounds of Mimolette were tossed into dumpsters and doused in bleach.” [The New Yorker, Dec. 9, subscription; S.F. Chronicle, earlier on French cheese controversy here, here, etc.]
- FDA forced to back off FSMA regs, NYC soda ban loses twice in court, and other highlights of the year in food freedom [Baylen Linnekin] “Americans Think They Should Be Allowed to Buy Foods with Trans Fats and Caffeinated Energy Drinks” [Emily Ekins on new Reason-RUPE poll] “The Dangers of a Soda Tax” [Trevor Burrus] Linnekin podcast on FDA’s trans-fat ban [Cato, Caleb Brown interview]
- “Annals of Closing Statements in Exploding Bottle Cases” [Kyle Graham]
- “Minnesota says raw milk makes more people sick than recognized” [L.A. Times]
- It’s for the children: proposals for regulating in-store food marketing [Jennifer Pomeranz via Public Citizen]
- Federal sugar program devastated domestic candy manufacturing, as WaPo (sometimes) recognizes [Chris Edwards]
- “The FDA’s Ill-Conceived Proposal to Ban Trans Fats” [Baylen Linnekin] Margarine and other butterfat substitutes help in keeping a meal kosher, but FDA appears indifferent to individual preference [Ira Stoll] Can the baker fudge the formula for Baltimore’s Berger cookies? [Baltimore Sun, WTOP/Capital] Organized grocery lobby appears to be going quietly, perhaps a misguided strategy since this sets a precedent for yanking familiar ingredients off Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list, and many activists would like to move on to things like sugar next [Bloomberg Business Week, Doug Mataconis/Outside the Beltway, Michelle Minton/CEI, Bainbridge] Switch to palm oil might accelerate deforestation [Scientific American]
- FDA’s regs implementing Food Safety Modernization Act could tank small farmers and other food operations, commenters write in by thousands [Baylen Linnekin, Jim Slama, HuffPo]
- Proposed Austin curbs on fast food restaurants might ensnare its beloved food trucks [Linnekin]
- Any day now FDA could issue long-awaited, highly burdensome new menu calorie labeling regs [Hinkle] Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (Ind.-ME) introduce bill to excuse grocers and convenience stories from rules and simplify compliance for pizzerias [Andrew Ramonas/BLT]
- “Panel weighs in on soda ban at law school” [NYU News covers my recent panel discussion there with Jacob Sullum and Prof. Roderick Hills, pic courtesy @vincentchauvet]
- “Organic Farmers Bash FDA Restrictions On Manure Use” [NPR via Ira Stoll]
- Nick Farr looks at NYT retrospective on the Stella Liebeck (McDonald’s) hot coffee case [Abnormal Use]
- “Sugar is the most destructive force in the universe” according to expert witness who meets with less than favorable reception in corn syrup case [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
“The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it is taking the first step toward banning dangerous trans fats that are found in a variety of processed foods. The agency said in a statement that the fats, used in a number of products from margarine and coffee creamer to frozen pizza, are a major health concern for Americans despite lower consumption of the dangerous, artery-clogging fats over the last twenty years.” [Chicago Tribune, our earlier coverage] More: Julie Gunlock, IWF; Scott Shackford, Reason; Michelle Minton, CEI (logic of removing ingredient from GRAS list based on long-term cumulative health effects could point toward regulating salt, sugar).
From comments: “Trans fats are pretty rare in my experience at this point outside of, ironically, military rations.” [L.C. Burgundy] More: Via Jacob Grier, Olga Khazan at The Atlantic recalls the days when the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) denounced restaurant chains for using saturated fat. The ensuing pressure campaign resulted in a widespread switchover to supposedly healthier trans-fat.
- If you thought “finger in chili” was bad, meet the Utah couple arrested on charges of planting razor blade shards in doughnuts and swallowing some [KSL, Daily Mail]
- My talk a few weeks ago as part of Cato Institute panel on nanny state [YouTube, Bruce Majors]
- New Reason-RUPE public opinion survey finds public broadly opposed to food and drink bans [Sullum]
- Feds’ bad advice on polyunsaturated fat: more damaging than any mass tort in sight? [David Oliver] More: Hans Bader.
- Coroner blames woman’s death on Coca-Cola addiction [TV NZ] Monster Beverage: natural causes, not caffeine toxicity, killed Maryland teen [Reuters, NYT, earlier] More: Jacob Sullum.
- Oh, CSPI, thou contradictest thyself [Baylen Linnekin; more from him on parents’ and kids’ food choices quoting me, NYC soda ban]
- “Bloomberg limits seder portions” [Purim spoof, New York Jewish Week]
- Kelly Brownell, guru of obesity-reduction-through-coercion formerly based at Yale, named dean of public policy school at Duke;
- “A Knife, a Walmart Birthday Cake and a Frenzy of Overreaction” [Free-Range Kids] Mardi Gras perennial: can you buy king cake with baby figurine already in it? [same, earlier]
- Now they tell us: NYT book review not conspicuously enthusiastic about Michael Moss anti-food-biz book hyped to the rafters in NYT magazine three weeks earlier [Ira Stoll, SmarterTimes, our take]
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]