Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How Far Should Government Go To Protect People From Themselves? Trans Fats Are Unhealthy, Not Hazardous: Confusing Public Health Concerns With Individual Health Concerns

From The Federalist, "Standing Athwart History, Yelling ‘Trans Fats For Everyone!’: Should government protect us from ourselves?" by David Harsanyi:
So when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently took the first step in eliminating trans fats from the food supply, it may have justified the ban by claiming that partially hydrogenated oils were no longer on the “generally recognized as safe” list, but it was just federalizing the sort of paternalistic micromanaging that big cities have been trying to implement for years. The thing is, the FDA, acting by fiat, is going to have a lot easier time being our mommy than any mayor.

The question you usually get in this debate goes something like this: Isn’t it government’s job to protect people from corporate malfeasance and dangerous products? Sure. But how far should government go to protect people from themselves? Trans fats are unhealthy, they aren’t hazardous. That’s a vital distinction that has been persistently muddled by groups that have spent decades trying to normalize the idea that someone else should be controlling what you eat. (Some of these same groups, like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, pressured the industry to use trans fats as a healthier alternative in the first place.)

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, in fact, admits that the ban was necessary because "current intake remains a significant public health concern." Confusing public health concerns and individual health concerns allows the FDA to ban virtually anything it desires. If it’s the intake that matters (and even the FDA doesn’t require trans fats to be identified on labels if .05 grams or less is used per serving) why Fig Newtons? Why not place limits on over-the-counter acetaminophen or appletinis? And why only certain components of food? Is it healthier for us to douse our fries in mayonnaise or enjoy microwavable popcorn once a week? [Emphasis added.]

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