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Argument: Government should inform citizens, not ban trans fats

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Supporting quotations

"Banned foods and misinformed consumers." Los Angeles Times. June 20th, 2008: "what too many consumers don't have is a sufficient knowledge of food and diet to use that information effectively. Consumers are, in fact, astonishingly ignorant when it comes to nutrition generally or the health consequences of certain foods. Much of our "knowledge" about diet comes from often-incomplete or inaccurate media stories -- many of which are driven by market-hungry food companies or publicity-hungry activists.

For example, while there is some evidence that high-fructose corn syrup can contribute to obesity more readily than other simple sugars, it is the rising consumption of simple sugars generally -- the infamous "empty calories" -- that is the real health problem here. And yet, because of our fragmented knowledge of food and diet, many consumers will do everything they can to avoid high-fructose corn syrup but little to avoid other simple sugars.

So rather than ban HFCS or trans fats or any of these unhealthy foods, it would be far more effective to embark on an aggressive campaign to education consumers -- much as we've done with tobacco. In the case of trans fats, consumers need to understand what these substances are, why the industry uses them and what the consequences are. If information on trans fats and other "bad" foods were provided within a broader program of nutrition awareness, consumers might gradually eliminate the use of trans fats voluntarily, in the same way that many people have rejected tobacco. I also suspect that, as the public became more fluent in the language of diet and nutrition, the food industry would be less and less inclined to use such ingredients."

"Want fries with that?" Chicago Tribune Editorial. April 16th, 2011: "We don't like the government deciding what we can or can't eat. We're capable of making good decisions, and we have every right to make bad ones.

What we need from the government is information. The federal Food and Drug Administration already requires packaged foods to list trans fat content on their labels. (And yes, we know, we have to study those labels carefully. But we can.) In some cities, restaurants that voluntarily switch to other fats can display a sticker certifying their menus are trans fat free.

We like that approach better than the Illinois proposal, which would phase out trans fats starting in 2013. It passed the House of Representatives last week after its sponsor, Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, stressed the potential health care savings. If only it were that easy."

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