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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Magazine Article] The Trans-Fat Ban as a Model of Slow Health Policy

Poster from New York City's board of health en...

Poster from New York City’s board of health encouraging consumers to limit trans fat consumption (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 8th November 2013 article in The Atlantic

 

..Taking trans fats off the GRAS list won’t remove them from the food supply. Manufacturers can still petition the FDA for exceptions. But it goes a long way toward getting them out.

what the announcement really shows is how public health works: slowly, based on mounting scientific evidence, against constant and mounting headwinds of public ridicule and, much more important, industry lobbying and advertising.

..Companies seldom change unless they have to, which they say means unless consumers ask them to. If you don’t want trans fats or gluten or genetically modified organisms, fine with us! Just tell us with your food dollars! This is of course a way of saying that they don’t want government telling them what to do, and gives them a chance to shape the public opinion they say they simply obey, with millions of dollars in ad campaigns and lobbying.

..

The lesson, though, is not that the public shouldn’t trust science, because one year’s saturated-fats-are-evil message will eventually become next year’s hey-butter-is-great-when-you-look-at-Crisco. The road to strong public recommendations isn’t clear, as scientific research is slow and zigzags. Both food makers and scientists can be guilty of jumping the gun, depending on what they think they can sell or who they can get to fund big studies and endowed chairs.

..

The analogy I’m building toward is, of course, sugar-sweetened drinks. Scientific consensus has built to practically the bursting point that sodas make kids fat. Soda makers deride the officials who try to do something about it, and work as hard as they can to cast doubt on science. Mayor Bloomberg, though fairly trim, was their fattest target, in the Mrs. Doubtfire costume they dressed him up in when he tried to impost a portion limit on sodas in restaurants and movie theaters. Now that he’s leaving, they’ll find another target.

But opinion will change, national bodies start to fall into line as they did on trans fats and are doing with sugary drinks. The most outspoken enemies of sugar, like Robert Lustig, are trying to take it off the GRAS list–something that CSPI petitioned the FDA to do last February, asking it to study and determine safe levels of high-fructose corn syrup. The chance of an FDA announcement of that in six years seems pretty unlikely now. But soda makers already have more than dozens of low-sugar and sugar-free drinks: they have scores and scores of them. They’ve quietly been working to solve the problem, while spending (often literally) untold sums not to risk their core products. The advocates against trans fats who seemed so crazy even six years ago, when the New York trans fat ban went into effect, are seeming a lot less crazy today.

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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