Creative Destruction

December 18, 2006

Six Points About NYC’s Banning Trans-Fats In Restaurants

Filed under: Current Events — Ampersand @ 12:04 pm

New York City has banned trans-fats in restaurants; restaurants have until July 2007 to get rid of the trans fats. ((Except for donut shops, which have until July 2008.))

1) I’m enough of a libertarian to think they should have just required restaurants to clearly label foods containing trans fats, and then let consumer preferences do the rest. ((The bill does require restaurants to provide calorie information, which is good.))

2) On the other hand, if this law really saves 500 lives a year (as ban proponents claim), I’m enough of a liberal to think that’s worth a tiny loss in freedom. But I’m skeptical about the 500 lives a year claim; I haven’t been able to find out how that figure was derived.

3) NYC Mayor Bloomburg says “We’re not trying to take away anybody’s ability to go out and have the kind of food they want in the quantities they want.” It must be nice to be that free of distressing reality. Next, Mayor Bloomburg will explain how speeding laws aren’t trying to take away anyone’s ability to drive as fast as they want.

4) Trans fat ban proponents often claim that there’s no taste difference between food prepared with trans fats and food prepared with other oils. But that isn’t true; many folks (but not all folks) can taste the difference. See the taste test at the bottom of this Willamette Week article, for instance. And no one knows how to make trans-fat-free donuts that taste as good.

5) Ironically, margarine — once billed as the healthier (and lousier-tasting) alternative to butter — is much higher in trans fats than butter, and is now considered less healthy than butter. Zig! cry the health mavens. Zag! they cry, ten years later. Yet their credibility never seems to go down.

6) Banning trans fats in restaurants, but not in grocery stores, doesn’t make sense. I guess the supermarket lobby is more powerful than the fast-food and donut lobby.

8 Comments »

  1. They calculate #2 based on a simple formula:

    Complete Bullshit + Wishful Thinking
    ———————————————-
    Factor Pulled Out of Someone’s Ass

    (Or: (CB + WT) / FPOOSA)

    Comment by Robert — December 18, 2006 @ 12:40 pm | Reply

  2. Ampersand wrote:

    NYC Mayor Bloomburg says “We’re not trying to take away anybody’s ability to go out and have the kind of food they want in the quantities they want.” It must be nice to be that free of distressing reality. Next, Mayor Bloomburg will explain how speeding laws aren’t trying to take away anyone’s ability to drive as fast as they want.

    Good point. Saying “our restriction isn’t meant to be a restriction” is utter nonsense.

    I’m glad that smoking is banned in public places in many states, because when one person smokes, so do others, even if only passively. However, banning trans fats from restaurants goes too far, IMO. Using legislation to keep people healthy (when their poor health choices don’t affect anyone else) is just bad public policy. Sure, being unhealthy and missing work and having higher healthcare costs are in the aggregate a drain on productivity and the economy. Government can encourage and enable healthy living all it wants, which I support, but to enforce it is another matter more befitting a fascist state.

    Comment by Brutus — December 18, 2006 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  3. And no one knows how to make trans-fat-free donuts that taste as good.

    I doubt this very much. I would expect any naturally saturated fat to work at least as well as vegetable shortening. I believe donuts were traditionally made with lard (or maybe tallow or chicken fat for Kosher donuts?). Palm oil would probably be a reasonable vegetarian alternative.

    I believe what they mean is that no one knows how to make a good-tasting donut that won’t get the PCRM or CSPI on their case.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 18, 2006 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  4. Usually estimates of lives saved end up being underestimates.

    For example, the number of lives saved by a smoking ban in Pueblo, Colorado was far beyond the expectations of those who implemented it. Ditto the number of lives saved by SIDS public advertising campaigns (around a 50% drop) and a move away from hormone treatment for menopause (breast cancer down 7% in one year)

    Comment by ohwilleke — December 18, 2006 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  5. For an intervention like this, how meaningful is a statistic like number of lives saved, anyway?It’s not like SIDS, where the baby either suddenly dies or goes on to live a normal life. All this can do is push back a fatal heart attack by…well…your guess is as good as mine, but I doubt it’s much. Seems like years of life saved would be a better measure.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — December 18, 2006 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

  6. […] The previous post was the 500th on Creative Destruction.   […]

    Pingback by Milestone « Creative Destruction — December 19, 2006 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

  7. I think one point that Ampersand touched on here is a good one. Many restaurants will probably just substitute saturated fats for transfats, which I doubt will be any healthier.

    Comment by Glaivester — December 19, 2006 @ 5:31 pm | Reply

  8. Actually, let me rephrase that. Ampersand touched on a lot of good points here, but I wanted to elaborate on that particular one.

    Comment by Glaivester — December 19, 2006 @ 5:32 pm | Reply


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