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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

trans fats on the go

new york city recently passed legislation to ban trans fats in all NYC restaurants. this is pretty cool, but, as the BBC article points out, is going to be very difficult to accomplish, especially considering all the McDonald's-esque establishments in the city. overall, it's certainly an improvement. I have to wonder about a few things, though.

first, will other cities, and perhaps even other states, follow this trend? the article mentions that Chicago is already considering such legislation.

second, will lawmakers consider including prepared foods in such future legislation? granted, with prepared foods (by which I mean grocery-store bought foods with an FDA-approved label), one can check the label and be sure the food does not contain any trans fats, in a way that it's not as easy to check the label in a restaurant. I guess it's a question of whether people are capable of taking care of their own health or whether the state should make sure their food doesn't have as much crap in it. granted, I would wager that most people don't know or aren't fully aware of the detrements surrounding trans fats, but I suspect that's a slightly different problem.

third, will such legislation be extended to other similar compounds and chemical found in, or added to, food products? the BBC article notes that trans fats "have no nutritional benefit." the same could be said about virtually any dye or flavoring added to a food product. afaik, most herbs and spices have some nutritional benefit, e.g. ginger is good for digestion, garlic is beneficial to the immune system, chicken is a natural decongestant, and just about any hot-n-spicy food can help clear the sinuses. even increddibly fatty foods like bacon still have some positive nutritional value to them. however, I'm not certain about the nutritional value of "natural" or "artificial" flavors. what about preservatives? I'm pretty sure, like trans fats, they can extend shelf life, but they add no nutritional value. will governmental bodies start banning the use of preservatives in restaurant-prepared food or even pre-packaged store-bought food?

it's an interesting prospect, and it certainly raises questions about big government. on the one end of the spectrum, there's The Jungle, along with its modern corollary, Fast Food Nation. at the other end is, I don't know, something like Soylent Green, but perhaps slightly less cannibalistic? the extremes are pretty clear, it's that funky grey line somewhere in between that's a littel more fuzzy.

so the question is, just how far should the government go in regulating the contents of the food we buy and consume, and at what point does it become the responsibility of the consumer (or customer or end-user or what have you) to be aware of the content of the food, and in general the products, that they consume (or buy or use)?


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