Indiana State Fair Bans Trans Fat

Published August 1, 2007

Indiana State Fair officials announced on June 26 that all food vendors at this year’s fair must eliminate trans fat cooking oils from their deep fryers–a first for any such fair nationwide.

“This is a big deal,” said Marla Calico, director of Grants and Special Education at the International Association of Fairs & Expos, because “1300 fairs are members of our association and Indiana is the first to have told us that this is what they are doing.

“I have been getting calls from across the country about this,” Calico said. The Indiana State Fair takes place August 8-19.

Obesity Issue

Indiana State Fair spokesman Andy Klotz said fair officials did their research before announcing the new policy.

“We investigated this and found out that all the vendors using trans fat-free oil said their customers actually like the taste of their food better,” Klotz explained. “One of our vendors probably explained it best when he said he was getting a much better value out of the trans fat-free cooking oil because it lasts twice as long, is healthier, and cooks better.

“We also investigated whether any other state fair had done this, and found out that none had, so we figured it would bring a little [attention] to our fair,” Klotz continued. “We have always considered ourselves one of the leaders in the fair organization.”

Indiana fair officials also seem to be making a statement about the state’s poor national health ranking–according to a 2006 report by the Trust for America’s Health, Indiana is the eighth-heaviest state, with a 26.2 percent adult obesity rate.

Beyond Food Alley

Some free-market groups, however, say the policy is hypocritical.

“If you want to make the statement about trans fat effectively, you certainly don’t want to award a championship bull or hog in the next fair alley, because right there is trans fat, so it doesn’t make any sense,” said T. Craig Ladwig, director of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation.

“I think overall they are making a point in a very small way,” Ladwig continued. “It’s a pretty small ambition circle.”

Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health in New York City, said the fair’s move is yet another example of over-regulation of the food supply.

“The government has a role in keeping our food supply safe–for example, closing a restaurant for lack of hygiene, or seizing contaminated food which poses an imminent danger to life and health,” Whelan said. “But this is not the case with trans fats.”

Dietary Bandwagon

Several months ago, New York City’s Board of Health issued a similar ban on trans fatty acids (TFAs) in local restaurants.

“The move is profoundly misguided,” Whelan said. “It won’t make New Yorkers healthier, and may even contribute to the toll of premature death by diverting our attention from the real causes of heart disease.

“Simply put, claims about the health risks of TFAs are grossly exaggerated, with recommendations to avoid them having as little scientific basis as saying all of us should purge every grain of salt from our diets,” Whelan said.

Though TFAs can raise bad cholesterol levels in the blood, Whelan said they are only one of many dietary factors that may do so.

“The problem is that chronic diseases are primarily linked to lifestyle factors,” Whelan said, and the intrusion of government or any other policymaking body “simply won’t work.”

Judi E. Loomis ([email protected]) writes from Indiana.

For more information …

“F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2006,” published in August 2006 by the Trust for America’s Health, is available through PolicyBot™, The Heartland Institute’s free online research database. Point your Web browser to and search for document #21718.