Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is that my blood boiling, or is that the oil for my deep-fried oreos?

What makes me more sick than a day at the fair? News like this New York Times story: Yes, Deep-Fried Oreos, But Not In Trans-Fat. Yes, the great Indiana state fair has banned the use of trans-fats in the fryers of the food concessionaires.

Along the steamy thoroughfare here, where only sensitive palates can distinguish among the various cuts of potato (curly fries, ribbon fries and the old standby, French), fairgoers seemed pleased with the switch. The food tasted the same, they said happily. And if this meant they could indulge without guilt or have one more helping, so much the better.

This is all just insanity - first off, as I believe some health nuts have feared, the focus on trans fats may give people the idea that "trans-fat free" means a healthy ticket to indulgence-ville, when it means nothing of the sort. And more importantly, we're talking about A STATE FAIR! You know, the sort of place you go once a year, usually for the purpose of eating yourself sick. If any place in the world shouldn't be worried about trans fats, it's a fair. It's a sad, sad world we're coming to.

Just wait until they take the candy out of candy apples and cotton candy and I'm arrested for hosting an illegal fair with trans fats in my back yard. Then we'll see who's crazy.


Blogger John said...

Once again, you don't even seem to care what trans fats are. You see a food is getting banned so you lump it together with everything else and assume all sorts of foods will be banned. Artificial trans fats are unnecessary to use, they are extremely bad for you because they not only raise cholesterol but they also lower good cholesterol. And the fact is, people generally don't know what their food is being cooked with at restaurants, fast food joints, etc. So when their food is drenched in trans fatty acids without them even knowing, it's even more a health risk.

As for this story, it was the fairs leaders who made the switch, not the big bad government. I say kudos to the fairs leaders and shame on you.

4:37 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

If people want to make the switch on their own, that's good for them, but the problem is we're being pushed around by this scare science. The reason that trans fats are everywhere today is because 30 or so years ago, "science" told us that butter, lard, and traditional fats were bad for us and were going to kill us. Apparently that was a huge tiny mistake, because now we're told that trans fat is going to kill us.

As I noted in the original post, this sort of hysteria only encourages people to think simplistically. And the problem is that nutrition and health is not that simple. There's a lot more to good nutrition than X good, Y bad.

This just also feeds into the prohibitionist desires that always seems to foster among certain segments of the country. It's a way of blaming bad things instead of blaming people for making bad decisions. Just think back to the temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, to feelings about drugs in general. My weight isn't the fault of trans fats or BIG FOOD, or whoever else you want to blame, my weight falls solely upon me and the decisions that I make.

I think these sorts of bans are stupid because they encourage people to remain ignorant and discourage personal responsibility. That, and, I heard the jury is still out on science.

11:25 AM  
Blogger John said...

It doesn't encourage people from responsibility. Do you think people will think "deep fried oreos" are healthy without trans fat? No. The problem with trans fats and the reason why people are very much against them now isn't the potential harm to weight but the harm to the heart. As I said, trans fats not only raise cholesterol but they also lower your good cholesterol which can put people at a serious risk for heart disease. That's the real problem. People will get fat from eating too many french fries or chicken wings, but when these foods are dipped in trans fat oils than it just adds to the risk. And as I said, it's not fair that the general public generally doesn't know when their food is being dipped into trans fats. A healthy person who treats themselves to fast food dipped in trans fat every now and then and not even know the damage they are inflicting on their heart.

This isn't about banning fatty foods, it's about banning an unnecessary substance that people don't even know is in their food.

12:55 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

From the New York Times piece:

Along the steamy thoroughfare here, where only sensitive palates can distinguish among the various cuts of potato (curly fries, ribbon fries and the old standby, French), fairgoers seemed pleased with the switch. The food tasted the same, they said happily. And if this meant they could indulge without guilt or have one more helping, so much the better.

“This is a slice of heaven,” said Ryan Howell, 31, as he cradled his Combo Plate, which, for the record, consists of one battered Snickers bar, two battered Oreos and a battered Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup — all deep-fried in oil that is trans-fat free, thank goodness.

2:16 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

And if the problem is lack of information why is the solution to ban what people lack information about it, rather than providing people with more information?

2:18 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

Oh and finally, artificial trans fats are not unnecessary . They provide longer shelf life, more product stability, and in many cases just make the best tasting doughnuts.

You may have noticed that Dunkin Doughnuts has decided to limit the trans fats in their baked goods - and good for them - We'll see how it works.

2:22 PM  
Blogger John said...

First of all, I'd like to comment about the article. It's bad writing and quite frankly, it's got a hint of propaganda to it. This story is bias. The writer embellishes the story and makes it seem like trans fats are the sole problem with food. That's not true. The person quoted in your last excerpt didn't say he was indulging because of no trans fats. There's no direct quote in the matter and he's not even quoted as saying, it's just inferred. The writer hasn't done his homework and if you read it again, it'll show.

Now, as I said earlier, trans fats are unnecessary. There are other, safer products to deep fry foods in and as many, many people would attest, there is no difference in taste. God forbid a company actually look out for public interest and spend a few more cents on oil that won't last as long. You honestly sicken me sometimes. Here is a product that provides no nutritional value and is actually very detrimental to a person's health and yet you sit back and defend it because it makes donuts taste good. If artificial trans fats were secretly removed from all foods one day and no one was told, no one would even know. But since it's in the news, you have to fight some big crusade. Just because trans fats are banned doesn't mean donuts, or candy or chips are next. What we are going to see and have seen is companies being forced to be honest about what their products are made of or made with. It's a violation of trust when a company serves food that isn't all that it seems.

3:56 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

The reason I fight this fight is precisely because of all the bad writing and faulty science.

You again say that trans fats are unnecessary, but who are you to say that? Who are any of us to say what's unnecessary in food products? As I said, particularly in baked goods trans fats can help provide stability, shelf life, and according to some professionals, taste.

As I said before, the jury is still out on science, and it's a funny little line because in a way, it's true. What we know about nutrition and fats and health is constantly changing, constantly evolving. Trans fats are in the news today because in the past decade or so any number of studies have linked them to any number of health risks. And companies will respond to all this attention- as Dunkin Doughnuts has- by acting according to what people want. In essence, this has been part of my argument for the past few years against the need for government action- private organizations and companies are doing this sort of thing themselves.

And as you can see, I'm not up in arms over the Dunkin Doughnuts decision - I just think the fair decision is extra stupid and highlights a complete lack of understanding of science and nutrition. Does one plate of deep fried Oreros at the fair put you at a risk of heart disease? Of course not - no more than one cigarette is going to give you lung cancer. And the point of a fair is that you go there once a year!!!!

I don't like the fair making such a stupid rule because the point of a fair is to bring people from the community together- different groups, different little food providers. If the fair wants to mandate some kind of disclosure- "We fry in trans fats" than so be it, but a ban is just a symbolic waste of time that doesn't do anyone any good.

I have no idea whether I'd notice if trans fats were removed, but that's not the point. Let that decision be between the food makers and the eaters - why does anyone else have to be involved?

8:27 PM  
Blogger John said...

Here's the thing, I had no idea Dunkin Donuts used trans fats until you wrote about it. That's the thing though, food makers aren't honest with the eaters. I assume most eaters realize that certain foods aren't as healthy as others, such as donuts or french fries. But when stuff like trans fats are being used without the public knowing what they are or what they do, it's just adding insult to injury. Food makers want to save an extra buck by using a more dangerous frying/cooking oil and at who's expense? The eater.

As I've been saying, trans fats are completely unnecessary. Every time you say they add to shelf life or stability, it just proves even more that they are unnecessary because it's a pretty weak argument if that's the best you can do to defend them. And as I've been saying, trans fats are very, very bad for cholesterol and the heart, so when all of these food makers have been apparently using trans fats to make their products, it just compounds the issue. Ultimately, this is why the government has to step in: The public has been deceived. I'll admit, until New York banned trans fats, I had no idea what they were and I guarantee you the majority of the general public didn't either or still don't. We have a right to know what we are eating and if there's something bad being put into our foods, I hope to God there's action taken against it.

Also, don't use the "the jury is still out on science BS". Obviously there are things science can't explain but I'm pretty sure science can prove what's good for a person and what's not. Don't use the 30 years ago crap either because I think we're a little more advanced now than we were then. And also don't say I just proved your point because "who knows what we'll know 30 years from now". Trans fats aren't magically going to be proven to be good, I've read up on it and the jury is out. Trans fats = very, very, very bad.

1:39 AM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

You're right about this on a really simple level, but you're just so wrong in so many other ways.

You distort the facts when you say companies are deceiving the public about what's in their products. Artificial trans fats have been in food products for 30 plus years - possibly a lot longer, but the move away from trans fats is relatively new. Demanding disclosure is fine, but companies need to know what they have to disclose. Trans fat labeling requirements only went into effect in 2006. Given that we have the FDA setting nutrition labeling requirements, why should we demand a higher standard?

Restaurants are not required to provide nutritional information under federal law - and you can see why. It would be a major problem if every mom and pop doughnut shop had to do a nutritional analysis on every variety of doughnut. This is the field I'm involved in so I know how expensive that can be.

Maybe you'd like to say- "oh, they should have to disclose the use of trans fats," but it seems to be an odd policy that would require disclosure of even small of amounts of trans fats, but would not mandate disclosure of total fat content, saturated fat content and calorie content. Again, this would seem to be the sort of policy that encourages nutritional ignorance and wrongly delivers the impression that no trans fats = healthy.

My point is that "tricking people" is really just the wrong way to look at this. If I run a doughnut shop, is it really my job to know the chemical composition of everything I make? Sure you should know the ingredients you're using, but if you're a baker, you're probably not a food scientist. Would you really accuse the doughnut man of tricking his customers by deep frying his doughnuts in the same oil he's been using for decades?

It doesn't make any sense to me that we'd like to impose requirements on big food businesses that most of us agree would be unfair when it comes to small food businesses. It doesn't make sense if the purpose of the requirement is health.

And by the way, don't diss shelf life. Longer shelf life of food products has contributed greatly to ending hunger. And no, trans fats

And finally, no I don't think we've reached some sort of pinnacle of knowledge when it comes to nutrition. Our understanding is constantly changing and evolving, which is why I don't like these sorts of drastic policies- particularly not when it comes to our ability to make our own choices. Give people the facts and let them make decisions for themselves.

As I said, I think the fair ban is stupid because of the unique nature of the fair. And it seems as though most of the big food companies and big fast food chains have moved to eliminate trans fats on their own - not because of a government rule, but because of public pressure.

But just to go back to the science for a minute - when it comes to these big food companies, we're talking about different recipes and different techniques using new products and new chemicals and the like. We wound up with a lot of trans fats in foods because of the move away from butter and animal fats. Where will this next push take us? Science will catch up, but remember, the health science is usually decades behind the creative science that comes up with these products in the first place.

11:02 AM  

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