Monday, November 11, 2013

The FDA Prepares to Ban Trans-Fat

Michelle Minton of CEI has a new OpEd, "FDA Trans-Fat Ban Sets Stage to Target Sugar, Salt, and More".

In particular, she notes:
The de facto ban on trans-fat’s GRAS [Generally Recognized As Safe] status signals a sea change in the agency’s approach to food-safety regulation. Historically, the FDA has banned only additives and products that could be acutely dangerous to public health. FDA attempts to limit other ingredients, such as salt and sugar, have met public backlash, but it’s unlikely many will step up to defend trans-fats, considering the scientific evidence that seems to link its long-term consumption with a slightly increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Since almost any food can become dangerous if consumed in excess over an extended period, this move would set a precedent for the FDA to go after other food ingredients. Unsurprisingly, self-styled “public health” advocates — always at the forefront of nanny state regulatory efforts -- are elated at this prospect...
It may indeed be that new scientific evidence show these fats are bad for people. 

But I posted the following comment below on Facebook and wanted to repost it here:
If the only thing the FDA did was say, "We think Food A is healthier for you than Food B", then it wouldn't be too big of a deal. Various private advocacy groups (biased and impartial) do that all the time -- and I can take or leave their advice. And in that case, the FDA would also be superfluous in a world where other people and organizations (some with much better credibility) would already be weighing in with their opinions.

But when the FDA also has the regulatory power to push some foods onto the market (and drive others off), then that's a different story entirely.

I'm fine with private people and organizations making arguments along the lines of, "Science now shows that some of our ideas from 20 years ago are wrong." One recent example has been the rise of "barefoot running" or the "minimalist shoes" as an alternative to the heavily padded traditional running shoes that gained popularity in the 1970s/1980s. There's interesting work showing those minimal shoes may have genuine long-term orthopedic benefits.

People can study the research for themselves and make their own decisions about what kind of running shoe to purchase (relying on any experts they deem reliable.)

But I would have objected to the FDA (or any similar government agency) promoting old-style running shoes in the 1980s and I would be similarly opposed to a government agency attempting to now tilt the playing field towards the popular new minimalist running shoes.

For agencies like the FDA, it's not just about the science. It's about someone's vision of what the science means for how you should live.