Early next year, the FDA is expected to finalize a new regulation intended to eradicate even trace amounts of partially hydrogenated oils, known as trans fats, from our diets.
Although the amount of trans fats Americans consume has declined significantly in recent years, the FDA’s quest to completely eliminate a particular type of trans fat threatens to eliminate the noble “sprinkle,” used to decorate holiday treats and donuts. Even a small amount of joy is suspect in the FDA’s brave, new, food-monitored world.
In recent years, research has determined that consuming large amounts of trans fats is harmful to the heart. Trans fats have been in the American diet since the 1950s, but recent awareness of its health risks have pushed food companies and restaurants to minimize its use. Today, Americans consume just 1.3 grams of trans fats a day, around 0.6% of total caloric intake. No research has shown this level of consumption to pose any risk.
The proposed FDA action underscores the challenge of a permanent bureaucracy. Having succeeded in removing the risk that may arise from consuming large amounts of trans fats, the FDA extends its mission to eliminate even trace amounts, which may provide little in the way of improved health. Toxicity is determined by the dose, not the agent. Even water can kill if it is consumed in great quantities.
A small amount of trans fats appear naturally in many foods. The new FDA rule would allow these, but broaden its regulatory dragnet to prohibit the very small amounts of artificial trans fats used to prolong the shelf life of many frozen foods, baked goods and, yes, sprinkles.
At this juncture, it bears repeating that a large reason trans fats used to be so prevalent in our diets was due to the activism of the food nannies at Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The left-wing food scolds, most famous for its reports on “calorie bomb” food entrees, pushed restaurants and food companies to switch to trans fats in the 1980s and 1990s.
As research mounted that trans fats were possibly unhealthy, CSPI dismissed these concerns as “rumors.” Trans fats, the group concluded, “seem relatively innocent.” The groups nutrition director even concluded, “The bottom line, trans…schmans.” The group has since completely reversed their views and today raises millions of dollars to agitate for bans of the very products they once promoted.
This Christmas, don’t pass up those holiday cookies or cupcakes with the festive sprinkles. They may soon be a distant memory we have to explain to our grandchildren.