Thursday, March 20, 2008

Baltimore City Council Decides You Are Not Capable of Deciding What to Eat

Baltimore's City Council passed a unanimous measure that bans trans fats in the city beginning in the fall of 2009. As somebody who tries to watch what he eats and works out when he can, I resent this type of food policing. If I'm going to indulge in fast food once a month, can't I have fries that taste good?

The quote I find most interesting in the whole piece is this one from Del. James W. Hubbard, a Prince George's County Democrat (emphasis mine):
"The whole goal of this bill is to push a prohibition on trans fats at the state level," Hubbard said. "The general public likes to be informed about what they're eating, and it has not had implications for restaurants."
Really? If people like being informed about what they eat so much why do they continue to eat at chains over neighborhood establishments or order "coffee" drinks that have as many calories as a steak dinner?

Maybe Baltimore politicians should be more concerned about the rate at which this map fills up instead of policing what goes on our plates.


Benn said...

I'm not sure why some people seem so angry about regulating trans fats, but I am very curious about this.

Why exactly are you angry that we are regulating unhealthy elements in our dietary intake?

Does it also anger you that we regulate acceptable levels of other toxins in our food? Or is it just transfats?

Anonymous said...'re quite thick. It DOES anger me that we "regulate acceptable levels of other toxins on our food." It is my choice what I put into my mouth, whether it be a carrot, a hot dog or dirt. The government does not have the right to tell me what I 'should' put in my mouth and what I should not.

If you don't like/want transfats, then don't eat them. Pretty simple and easy. But to pass yet another law to tell us how to eat is just ridiculous.


Dan said...

First off, if you're going to leave a comment calling somebody "quite thick" you should at least have the dignity (and/or cajones) to leave your name.

As far as my feelings about the law goes, I have no problem if the government is going to monitor the manufacture of foods to ensure that the ingredients are not harmful. However, whether or not I choose to eat something that's packed with delicious trans fat should be up to me and me alone.

Alcohol's not necessarily good for me but it's my choice to drink or not drink. Should the government regulate that, too?

I don't smoke and I'd prefer to eat, drink or see a band in a place that's not so thick with smoke that my clothes stink and my eyes burn, but I don't believe that cigarettes should be outlawed.

Why can't people be allowed to choose for themselves? Hell, price the trans fat version higher and pump that money into healthcare. I just think the government, especially in a city with so many other problems, might want to focus their attention elsewhere.

Benn said...

I'm "quite thick?" I ask some serious questions about the role of government regulation of toxins in our dietary intake, and the anger it inspires, and I'm insulted by "anonymous"?

I guess that speaks to the level of rational thought I'm dealing with here. I said I was aware of the anger already, I was curious as to the WHY of the anger.

But you are incorrect in your description of what is being done, "anonymous." The government isn't telling you what you can and can't eat. If you want to eat transfats, it's not a crime.

See, what the government is doing is regulating what people who serve food are doing. Much in the same way they regulate acceptable levels of bacteria in food, lead in stuff that goes in our mouth, etc.

If you want to eat toxins, you still have that right. It hasn't been outlawed. Although I have to wonder at the level of intelligence of someone who complains when the government takes measures to protect them from eating toxins.

I think the real issue here is similar to the complaints I've been hearing from smokers who feel persecuted by the recent smoking ban.

They don't seem to really acknowledge that their secondhand smoke is actually dangerous to those around them. I mean, how could they? They then would have to admit they've been harming friends, family and loved ones for years.

So since they can't admit it's dangerous, they feel like this is more unnecessary government intrusion into what they think is their individual right (a mistaken assumption, by the way).

The real issue here, I suspect, is that you don't really accept that trans fats are dangerous (and how could you, you'd then have to acknowledge that your beloved fast food entities have been knowingly poisoning you, and Ronald McDonald would NEVER do that, right?). As a result, you see it as a government intrusion into your individual rights to eat what you want (even though most people who eat trans fats don't really know what they are, what they do, OR that they're actually ingesting them).

Because if you did accept that trans fats are actually a threat to public health, I can't see how or why you would argue that restaurants should be allowed to put it in our food.

You'd essentially be arguing that there is nothing wrong with large corporate entities knowingly poisoning its customer base for profit (which, come to think of it, is exactly what the tobacco companies have done).

And for the record, just like your eating of trans fats hasn't been criminalized, smoking cigarettes hasn't been made illegal either.

I think emotion and irrational panic is getting in the way of discussing what is really being done here.

On a larger level, we live in a society, with other people. As a result our actions impact others. When we live unhealthy lifestyles, as much as you believe it is your right, it creates higher health care costs for others. And if you think this is bad now, regulation of trans fats and smoking, what do you think is going to happen when we get universal health care?

When irresponsible lifestyles are seen as a direct cost to your family, friends and neighbors?

But thanks for your replies.

I especially enjoy being called "thick" by someone who is complaining about government regulation of poisons in their food.

You should show me just how think I am by putting on an asbestos suit and eating a mercury tainted fish sandwich with a side of lead paint chips.


Benn said...

Anyhoo... based on our little chat here, I decided to actually do a little research into trans fats to see what the big deal is.

Here is some info I dug up:

Experts now say trans fats are "the biggest food-processing disaster in U.S. history".

Experts estimate that trans fats are responsible for at least 30,000 deaths a year.

Trans fats promote:

* heart disease
* cancer
* diabetes
* immune dysfunction
* obesity
* reproductive problems
* birth defects

The FDA wants new food labels to reveal trans fats in order to help force food manufacturers to eliminate them.

Removing trans fats from margarine would prevent 6,300 heart attacks a year.

Eliminating trans fats in 3% of breads and cakes and 15% of cookies and crackers would save $59 billion in health care costs over the next 20 years.

The dangers of trans fats have been known by experts for decades, and yet food companies have done nothing to reduce their usage.

Unfortunately, until recently, food manufacturers have been able to apply enough pressure on the FDA and the USDA to keep trans fats legal.

The World Health Organization urged the outlaw of trans fats as far back as 1978.

And finally, overall, I think most serious foodies would agree that butter tastes far better than, say margarine. Turns out, butter is better for you too.

So, what's the problem?