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December 05, 2006

NYC Board of Health Bans Transfats In Retaurants

Food Nazis.

The Board of Health voted Tuesday to make New York the nation's first city to ban artery-clogging artificial trans fats at restaurants - from the corner pizzeria to high-end bakeries.

The board, which passed the ban unanimously, did give restaurants a slight break by relaxing what had been considered a tight deadline for compliance. Restaurants will be barred from using most frying oils containing artificial trans fats by July and will have to eliminate the artificial trans fats from all of their foods by July 2008.

But restaurant industry representatives called the ban burdensome and unnecessary.

"We don't think that a municipal health agency has any business banning a product the Food and Drug Administration has already approved," said Dan Fleshler, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association.


...

Trans fats are believed to be harmful because they contribute to heart disease by raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol at the same time. Some experts say that makes trans fats worse than saturated fat.


This is odd:

The panel also passed another measure that has made restaurants unhappy: Some that chose to inform customers about calorie content will have to list the information right on the menu. The rule would generally apply to fast-food restaurants and other major chains.

Sheila Weiss, director of nutritional policy for the restaurant association, said the rule would be a disincentive for restaurants to provide any nutritional information.

Why do that? Is it just a backdoor attempt to stop fast foods from marketing their foods as "light" or "healthy"? Figuring it would be unconstitutional to ban McDonald's from advertising its "McLean DLT" as having fewer calories, they instead make a more content-/speaker- neutral rule that will have the same effect?

Seems sort of a transparent dodge, and I don't know that it won't get knocked down as unconstitutional infringement on commercial speech anyhow.

...

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who banned smoking in bars and restaurants during his first term, is somewhat health-obsessed, and even maintains a weight-loss competition with one of his friends in order to stay slim.

He has dismissed cries that New York is crossing a line by trying to legislate diets.

"Nobody wants to take away your french fries and hamburgers - I love those things, too," he said recently. "But if you can make them with something that is less damaging to your health, we should do that."

I don't know. If it's true that transfats are especially unhealthy -- if; I'm not sure there's any "science" that's wrong more consistently than nutritionism -- and used chiefly because they cost less, then this doesn't exercise me. A true libertarian might object, but then, a true libertarian might also object to cities' imposing fire standards on buildings. Hey, the true (insane) libertarian says, some buildings and businesses can make their premises deathtraps and others can make theirs safe; let the free market decide!

Well, okay, but there are millions of decisions we make a year that aren't really based on free market principles of information-gathering and decisionmaking. And in most cases, people just aren't going to think about how fire-retardant the walls of a nightclub might be, so the market can't reward fire-safe nightclubs. (Except to the extent they survive longer than, say, the Coconut Grove type clubs would.) And probably no one's asking if their fries were fried in transfat or real grease, so again, there aren't any market forces at work here to reward or punish anyone at all.

Some small-bore stuff like this I don't mind the government doing. If it makes fried foods cost a little more, well, okay. It probably makes food cost a little more to make sure there are as few roaches and rats in a restaurant as possible, but it's a government invasion into the free market I can live with.

Thanks to Good Will Hinton.


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posted by Ace at 02:56 PM

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