NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 12, 2006

At Mayor Bloomberg's urging, New York's Board of Health recently voted to ban restaurant use of artificial trans fats -- liquid oils made solid through hydrogenation -- claiming they raise cholesterol and cause heart disease, says the Wall Street Journal.

But the problem, says Steven Milloy of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is that studies purporting to show a link are inconclusive at best.  Even studies highlighted by proponents are anything but definitive:

  • One showed a statistically insignificant correlation between trans fats and heart disease when other risk factors are considered.
  • Two others found a link between very high consumption of trans fats and heart trouble, but statistically the association was weak.

What's more, says the Journal, is that many of those trying to ban hydrogenated oil are the same people who helped instill them:

  • Twenty years ago the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) launched a public relations blitz against fast food restaurants for using palm oil.
  • At the same time, they praised hydrogenated oil as an alternative to saturated fats, saying charges against trans fats didn't hold up. 
  • However, despite the earlier claims, CSPI now says trans fats kill 30,000 people a year.

Overall, the city's concern for the health of residents is understandable, but trans fats are not E. coli (or even secondhand smoke), and the federal Food and Drug Administration still considers these chemically modified food ingredients perfectly safe for consumption, says the Journal.  Food nannies, Mayor Bloomberg included, should not be pursuing legislation on the dubious assumption that people can't decide for themselves what and what not to eat, says the Journal. 

Source: Editorial, "The Bloomberg Diet," Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2006.

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