Let's say most people know that Poison
A is bad for them. They've known this for a long time. So a food
labeled "Contains No Poison A" will be enticing to consumers.
Now also assume that far fewer people
know that Poison B is also harmful. Most of them wouldn't even know to
look for it on a label, and if they saw it there, might very well not know
Given the situation with Poison A and
Poison B, what would you make of a food industry effort to allow it to claim
"No Poison A" across the front of a food package, even if the food
in question was loaded with Poison B? The presence of poison B would only be
disclosed on the product's usually far smaller and less prominent food
Wouldn't the fair and logical course
of action be, if the food industry wants to claim "No Poison A,"
to require equally prominent lettering right next to it that states
"But Contains x Amount Poison B"? This way, the consumer is
well-informed, not misled.
Substitute cholesterol as Poison A,
and trans fatty acids as Poison B, and you have the situation
before the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Trans Fatty Acids: What Are They?
Trans fatty acids "are formed
when vegetable oils are hardened into margarine and into the shortening used
in baked goods or other processed foods."
Why are they a poison? Because
trans fatty acids can seriously raise
a person's overall cholesterol levels. Worse, the way they do so is to
"raise LDL ('bad') cholesterol and lower HDL ('good')
Trans Fatty Acids: The Current
It's been three years since the FDA
proposed requiring food manufacturers to include the amount of trans fatty
acids on food labels. The food industry is engaging in typical
stalling tactics. Among other things, the industry is trying to ensure
that it can "continue emblazoning the claim 'contains no cholesterol'
on a tub of margarine containing a significant amount of artery-damaging
As noted above, sure, let them do
that, but also require then to emblazon in equally prominent lettering
"But contains x amount of trans fatty acids, which also increase your
risk of coronary heart disease."
Trans Fatty Acids: The Tobacco
The whole situation brings to mind the
tobacco industry and lung cancer. For decades the tobacco industry
denied smoking caused lung cancer, and then when they finally began to admit
it, did everything they could to minimize damage to their tobacco sales.
Similarly, researchers four decades
ago tried to bring to the
public's attention the danger of trans fatty acids, but the food industry
did its best to suppress that information. Then when the proof became
overwhelming, the food industry changed its tune, and began engaging in
stalling and other tactics designed to keep their products selling.
Indeed, "contains no
cholesterol" may be worse than "reduced tar and nicotine,"
because the latter still admits some of those poisons are in the product,
but "contains no cholesterol" leads the unwary to believe that
there is nothing else wrong with the product -- directly contrary to the
serious danger posed by its abundant trans fatty acids.
Hey, FDA, stop wasting any more time
on this, get the labeling requirements in effect, and go on to something