To NYC: Hands off my fries!

by Beacon Staff • December 13, 2006

Freedom equals choice, and not having to be told by the state what spending choices were right or wrong meant a lot to them.,When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many residents of communist East Berlin exercised their newfound freedom next door in one specific way: spending. They were thrilled to buy all the goods that weren't available to them on the other side.

Freedom equals choice, and not having to be told by the state what spending choices were right or wrong meant a lot to them.

Someone should pass that message along to the city authorities in New York City Board of Health who on Dec. 5, voted to ban all trans fats from its restaurants.

A type of unsaturated fat, trans fats are artificially created by hardening vegetable oil. They have been linked to health problems such as heart failure and obesity.

This particular form of unsaturated fat is commonly found in cookies, cakes, fried goods and fast food. What do these items have in common? Only two things: they're all delicious and everyone who possesses a shred of common sense knows that they are bad for you.

New York's Mayor Bloomberg also knows the dangers of trans fat, and he knows what's best for the people of the city too: not to eat them. "We are just trying to make food safer," he told The New York Times.

Why stop there? Perhaps New York and its fat police could consider salt rations at restaurants-one shake per square inch of food-or a citywide red meat ban. If only Boston's own Mayor Menino would tell us what food ingredients we were and weren't allowed to eat, it would make life a lot easier. No more of that pesky decision making and personal responsibility.

New York City's trans fat ban represents the worst of the hands-on "nanny state." Something is determined to be bad for the general good, so it is eliminated. This is despite the fact that the consumption of fast food, for example, endangers the health of no one but the person eating it. The nanny state tries to protect people from themselves.

No thanks. Adults in a society should be treated as such, not like children whose hands are being slapped away from the cookie jar. And considering the other part of the bill stipulates that some restaurants will be forced to list nutritional content on their menus, the elimination of trans fats is an even greater insult. We'll make it easier for you to see what you're eating, the law says, but don't worry because we'llyou still won't have the option of ordering unhealthy food.

Although health advocates claim that a good substitute for trans fats won't greatly alter the taste of our favorite foods (note that you won't find many who claim the taste will be identical), some in the restaurant industry are skeptical. They have good reason: a recent New York Post article found that, in a blind taste test, consumers overwhelmingy chose fries made with trans fat over their healthier counterpart.

Furthermore, in terms of this change being made, restaurants have their work cut out for them. As the Associated Press reported, "In addition to overhauling recipes, [restaurants] have to . convince customers that the new french fries and doughnuts will taste just as good as the original."

It's possible that the food will remain tasty without trans fats. The point is, there are people who enjoy fatty, fried and fast food and eat it in moderation despite the health effects. These customers-adults in a democracy-shouldn't be forced to wait and hope that their Taco Bell chalupa will taste just as good with a new recipe as it does now.

No one has to eat trans fats. Those concerned about their health can read labels, practice discretion and avoid fast food. It's called choice, and whether the government thinks so or not, it's something we deserve to be trusted with.