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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Government oversteps boundaries, deprives Americans of hard earned trans fats

On Nov. 7, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it intends to ban trans fats from the American diet. According to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, “further reduction in the amount of trans fat in the American diet could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.”

While this move by the FDA is for the good of public health, there is a looming question that is a little bothersome: why a government organization is allowed to decide what food products companies are allowed to produce, and therefore, what Americans are allowed to eat.

Certainly, trans fats are unhealthy. According to the FDA, “because they raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and have no health benefits, there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat.” However, a comparison can be drawn to the use of tobacco. Tobacco usage can lead to a multitude of scary side effects — like that picture of a gross black lung from my middle school science book. But while the tobacco industry is heavily regulated, American citizens can choose to partake in the use of tobacco.

Of course, this comparison is not a complete parallel, but if it is OK for Americans to get lung cancer from smoking cigarettes, it should be OK for Americans to have a heart attack from eating trans fats. One of the differences between the two is that the American government puts a large sum of money into education concerning tobacco use. Any school child can tell you that smoking is bad, but Americans are not as well-educated on what is in their food.

However, it is not the job of the government to make Americans healthier by banning certain ingredients — it is the job of individuals to become educated on what they are feeding themselves and their families.

It seems that Americans are getting an education on trans fats. The Grocery Manufacturers of America told USA Today that food manufacturers had already voluntarily lowered trans fats in their products by 73 percent since 2005. The Snack Food Association, another processed food lobby, told Web MD that 95 percent of its members have reduced trans fats in their products and a majority intend to eliminate them altogether. Furthermore, consumer intake of trans fats has decreased from 4.6 grams a day in 2003 to 1 gram per day in 2012.

These statistics suggest that not only is the FDA ban a little late in the game, it is not needed. If consumers want the elimination of trans fats in their food, the free market will give them that option.

Just as food manufacturers have the option to eliminate trans fats from their products, they should also have the option to keep them, as long as they make their use of trans fats clear. Several small businesses have built their reputation on a product which contains trans fats; a ban would force them to completely reformulate decades-old recipes. The co-owner of Marquez Tortilla Factory in Dallas, Sally Venegas, said, “It’s almost like having to start all over again.”

While the FDA’s proposed ban of trans fats is in the spirit of promoting good health for the American people, it is not needed and does not give individual Americans free choice of what they want to put in their bodies. If the FDA really wants to change the American diet, the best route is to help educate Americans on health and what is in their food. That way, individuals can make conscious healthy choices for themselves and their families.

Opinion columnist Emily Johnson is an English literature freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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