Monday, April 16, 2007

Do trans-fat bans miss the bigger picture?

By Michele Simon, Appetite for Profit, March 4th.

Junk-food lovers rejoice, for government officials are on the job protecting your health. Or are they? Philadelphia recently became the first city to pass legislation to ban artificial trans fat - that artery-clogging, industry-created substance used in frying oil and many baked goods. Following the lead of New York City's Board of Health, which enacted regulations in December, more than a dozen states are now considering similar laws.

As an advocate for good nutrition, I'm pleased to see major cities take action on one of the most pressing public health problems of our time - the way we eat. Given that the food industry continues to lobby hard against common-sense nutrition policies at federal and state level, we need more local governments protecting the public's health. Moreover, removing trans fat from the food supply could help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Yet the current effort threatens to overshadow the bigger dietary picture.

Focusing on this single ingredient misses the fact that most of the items prepared with trans fat are junk foods to begin with. Fried chicken, french fries, chips, cookies and cakes are unhealthy no matter what type of fat is used. What good is a trans-fat-free donut?

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