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Deep-fried do-goodism.

ITEM: reported on January 3, 2007: "Over the last few years, makers of packaged food have raced to eliminate or reduce trans fats, spurred by a Food & Drug Administration rule requiring nutritional labels to list trans-fat content starting in 2006. Today, it's the restaurant industry's turn to step it up. Next July, New York City--the nation's No. 1 restaurant market, with 20,000 eateries--will phase in a ban on trans fats in restaurant foods."

ITEM: "New York City is once again making history," reported WABC-TV in New York on December 7, 2006. The board of health approved a ban on all trans fat in local restaurants. Concluded the TV report: "Like it or not, city health officials say they're within their right, and within the law, to ban something that is proven to be harmful."

ITEM: "Connecticut residents whose New Year's resolution is to lose weight in 2007 may get a boost from legislation "prepared by two Republican state senators, reported the Fairfield (Conn.) Minuteman for January 5. "The state senators hope their proposal to ban unhealthy trans fat from all restaurant kitchens will be on the table for a vote by spring." Some restaurant owners admit they oppose a ban, others say they favor it. The last word went to an Italian restaurant owner in Fairfield named Peter Del Franco, who commented that "he would not view a statewide ban on trans fat as a government intrusion. 'I definitely think there are alternatives,' he said. 'If we know the bad effects of trans fat, and the government is paying for health care for people who can't afford it, then the government should ban trans fat. It's the same thing as the smoking ban. It was unpopular at first, but everything worked out.'"

CORRECTION: Few would argue that trans fat is a health food, but since when does that mean that it is the business of government to stick its nose in the kitchens of restaurants to tell business owners how to cook? Have Americans become sheep to be herded? Will deep-dish pizzas be the next target? How about calorie-heavy ice cream cones? And what should we do about products that contain more than the FDA daily requirements of sugar?

Naturally, the new trans-fat ban is meant to undo previous interventions by busybodies to regulate what we eat. In fact, the growth in the use of trans fats, which are created by mixing hydrogen with vegetable oil through the process known as hydrogenation, is the result in part of previous efforts of the very same public scolds such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that are now beating the drums against the use of trans fats.

During the 1980s, the great evil in the eyes of such groups was the use of saturated fats, which are found in beef tallow and butter. Therefore, trans fat was preferred. Writing in the CSPI's Nutrition Action Newsletter in 1988, Elaine Blume assured readers: "Hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent." Under pressure, restaurants moved away from cooking in butter and fat to the best available alternative, partially hydrogenated oil. But now that restaurants actually use trans fats, CSPI and its comrades have turned on them, even suing some large chains such as KFC and McDonald's.

The Food and Drug Administration has also been in the coercive campaign. The FDA demanded that, beginning in 2006, all the food nutrition labels must list the amounts of trans fats. This was, noted U.S. News & World Report, "the first significant change to the nutrition facts list since it was established in 1993." No problem is too small for meddlers.

As Professor David Kritchevsky, an expert in cholesterol and dietary fats, of the University of Pennsylvania told the New York Times in August of 2005: "I call [trans fat] the panic du jour." This fits a pattern that has grown worse as the government has grown more intrusive. H.L. Mencken put it this way many decades ago: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed--and hence clamorous to be led to safety--by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Moreover, it's more than passing strange that so-called liberals are all for using the power of government and propaganda to force people to do what is supposed to be good for them in certain regards--say banning smoking or trans fats in restaurants. Isn't that a matter of choice? Isn't that "doing your own thing"? Where are the "pro-choice" champions who have defended abortion and homosexual practices that have led to millions of deaths and exacerbated the plague of AIDS?

While killing unborn babies is legal, or even subsidized, soon it will be against the law in many jurisdictions to cook a French fry the wrong way.

Apparently, if the "choice" weapon can be used to chip away at the foundations of society, statists are all for it; however, if your personal choice isn't compatible with the hobgoblin of the hour, that's tough.

If a nanny state can tell you what to eat or how to cook--for your own good, mind you--isn't mandatory physical exercising a logical next step?

Not surprisingly, nanny states actually share many traits with totalitarian nations, with bureaucrats more than willing to become autocrats.

In North Korea, for instance, the populace does what it's told for its own good. A Library of Congress study makes North Korea sound like a heaven for regulatory dictocrats: "According to the Public Health Law enacted on April 5, 1980, 'The State regards it as a main duty in its activity to take measures to prevent the people from being afflicted by disease and directs efforts first and foremost to prophylaxis in public health work.' Disease prevention is accomplished through 'hygiene propaganda work,' educating the people on sanitation and healthy lifestyles, and the 'section-doctor system.' This system, also known as the 'doctor responsibility system,' assigns a single physician to be responsible for an area containing several hundred individuals. In general, medical examinations are required twice a year, and complete records are kept at local hospitals. According to one source, persons are required to follow the orders of their assigned physician and can not refuse treatment."

This is a national nanny state with a vengeance. To be sure, too much fat is not the problem in North Korea, where in recent years much of the population has been reduced to eating grass. Still, isn't it heartening that the state is so concerned about its subjects' exercise regimen? As the Library of Congress elaborated about North Korea: "Physical education is an important part of public health. Children and adults are expected to participate in physical exercises during work breaks or school recesses; they are also encouraged to take part in recreational sports activities such as running, gymnastics, volleyball, ice skating, and traditional Korean games. Group gymnastic exercises are considered an art form as well as a form of discipline and education. Mass gymnastic displays, involving several tens of thousands of uniformed participants, are frequently organized. Some of the largest were held in commemoration of the eightieth birthday of Kim Il Sung and the fiftieth birthday of Kim Jong Il, both celebrated in 1992."

In our own country, recommendations and advice have morphed into restrictions and prohibitions. Seeking to emulate the Big Apple, several other cities are contemplating their own bans on trans fats--never mind what the consumers may want or whether the alternatives are more expensive. After all, the health commissioner of New York City decreed that trans fat "is a dangerous and unnecessary ingredient." Many manufacturers and restaurateurs agree that alternatives are pricier and often don't provide the taste that consumers want. And it's the little guy, not the big chains, that will feel the brunt of the regulation. As an officer of the New York State Restaurant Association told CNN: "The mom and pops, particularly if the supply of [trans fat-free products] is short, will have to pay absolutely the highest prices."

Maybe the radical solution is to let consumers--not bureaucrats--dictate what restaurants do. After all, you know what they call a restaurant that doesn't believe that the customer is always right? Bankrupt."

Well, yes, but then you can just depend on the government, can't you?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Correction, Please!
Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Date:Feb 5, 2007
Previous Article:Going for the big stuff.
Next Article:Don't follow Europe's lead.

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