VIEWPOINT: Trans fat consumption ought to be regulated

By on November 12, 2013
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This past Thursday, the FDA proposed a preliminary measure stating that foods containing trans fats are no longer to be considered “generally safe,” ultimately meaning that the distributors of foods containing these types of fats will have to somehow prove their safety before they can be put into a food. Considering the mountains of scientific evidence suggesting that there really is “no safe level of consumption,” the proposal is essentially a death knell for trans fats.

Most people agree that this is awesome. An ingredient that does little more than cheapen the production of the food and cause heart disease should come under more than scrutiny and simple slaps on the wrist, especially in a society as heavily invested in medical technologies and services as that of the United States.

But as with every issue, there are naysayers.

In the L.A. Times article “FDA’s trans fat decision: An opening for regulating salt, sugar?,” Dr. Dariush Mazaffarian, a Harvard University epidemiologist and cardiologist, serves as the devil’s advocate in the government-versus-personal responsibility debate. He asserts that a ban on trans fats marks the beginning of a slippery slope toward banning other dietary items, such as salt and sugar that contribute to largely preventable diseases.

Similar to the response received by New York’s proposed ban on drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup, the backlash that this FDA ban has gotten is, to me, unsettling. Responsibility is indeed a virtue, and I believe that its resting on the shoulders of those who have the choice to resist is respectable, but when a government body – one charged with defending and protecting the health of the people – comes along and says that a food additive is in no way beneficial and in every way harmful to human health, people should respect that decision. It is not a decision made by a council of cloaked, menacing figures in an black castle bent on the destruction of the Western world; it is a decision made by incredibly intelligent health professionals that understand the bases of scientific logic and human dignity.

There will be no ban on salt or sugar, even though these substances have been shown to harm people in very unnecessary ways that could easily be prevented by a preemptive and sweeping ban of them. The FDA will literally never ban these items because they have a place in our diets. We actually need sodium and sugar, albeit in small amounts, and the adherence to this limit requires (and will continue to require) responsibility and sensible judgment on the part of the consumer. A few things on the list of stuff we should never put into your body are ingredients that only exist to cheaply imitate other naturally occurring substances such as high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.

Joe Shaw
Staff Writer

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