Trans fats may be on their way out if a new FDA proposal goes through. PHOTO: Jim G, CC license
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed new rules that would effectively eliminate artificial trans fats from American products. You can save your “government can’t tell me what to eat,” rant, this is a good thing that will save lives, make our country healthier in body and economy, and it won’t matter all that much to consumers.
The FDA proposal is not to ban trans fats outright, but to change the classification of partially hydrogenated oils—the source of trans fats—to be “no longer recognized as safe.” That would mean that companies that want to sell partially hydrogenated oils would have to present scientific evidence to the government that trans fats are actually just fine to consume. That’s a bar too high for trans fats, given what we already know about them, so the FDA’s proposal, if it goes through, would have the effect of eliminating trans fats from American-made products.
Trans fats show up in fried food, heavily processed food (like coffee creamer), many sweets and snacks (microwave popcorn, donuts) and more. Eliminating trans fats won’t cause those foods to cease to exist, though some will have to alter recipes or find new ways of preserving food.
Food safety and health is often the stock example for libertarians for why they don’t need the government: people shouldn’t have to rely on the government for their own health, they say. If something is making you sick, eat something else. There’s something to that—if you get most of your groceries from the produce aisle, you’re doing just fine—but are we really expected to monitor the zillions of options we have in the grocery store with their many unpronounceable ingredients? If an ingredient that invisibly inserts itself into thousands of products (how many of you knew that coffee creamer had trans fats?) is causing heart disease at no great benefit to the consumer, then the government can improve lives and reduce the sagging effect of health costs on our economy with a simple regulation.
Banning trans fats won’t make us all healthy, it will simply remove one insidious source of sickness in the American lifestyle. That’s a welcome change, and the FDA should go through with it.