Our Trans-Fat Amnesia

Published October 14, 2006

Dear Editor:

Thanks to Russell Berman for a balanced overview of the controversy over New York City’s proposed ban on trans fat (“City Wants to Ban Some Fatty Foods in Restaurants,” September 27, 2006).

Two additional points should be noted about this controversy. First, “trans fat” is an umbrella term for hydrogenated cooking oils. The term’s widespread use in connection with proposed bans gives the impression that it is an evil new additive to food products. But it is not, and any article on potential bans might properly note that one of the most common products that contained trans fat was margarine, which, of course, was widely touted in the past as a “heart-healthier” alternative to butter and other animal fats. And remember the bad press that coconut oil got in the 1980s for its use on movie theater popcorn? The replacement urged then: oil containing trans fat.

Second, one of the loudest voices in favor of trans fat-containing oils was the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which in 1988 demanded that McDonald’s use it to replace beef tallow for cooking french fries. Now, of course, CSPI is singing a different tune in its 2006 lawsuit against KFC. The suit, available at http://www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/final_complaint.pdf, alleges that KFC’s use of these oils is “outrageous and performed with evil motive, intent to injure, ill will” and that it is acting “without regard for the health and well being” of its customers.

Maureen Martin ([email protected]) is senior fellow for legal affairs for The Heartland Institute.