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Trans fat ban won’t be so easy

Updated: December 18, 2013 6:33AM



‘It’s not a good idea to eat any food that doesn’t rot.”

That was Phil Ponce’s explanation on “Chicago Tonight” last week why trans fats aren’t good for us.

Neither of the guest experts would quite agree, but when I heard that, I thought, that is the crux of the problem with Americans and our eating habits today. Ponce is right; whole foods with limited shelf life are what we should be choosing, but many of us do not.

We want our food to taste good (if in a synthetic way), be dirt cheap and last forever. Trans fats made all that possible, and now the FDA is poised to pretty much eliminate them from our diets.

I don’t think we realize just what the impact will be.

Medical and nutritional experts have been making the rounds of TV talk shows hailing the decision. Repeatedly I have heard it stated that the FDA ruling should mean an annual reduction of 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths in the United States. Sounds like good news if that comes to be.

About the only person I heard candidly lament the passing of trans fats was “CBS This Morning’s” Gayle King. “Don’t they make food taste better?” she asked as her co-anchors clucked their disapproval. Why yes, Gayle, they do, and I think their banishment is going to be noticed because trans fats are everywhere in the foods most Americans consume. Frozen pizzas, microwave popcorn, French fries, granola bars and other snack foods, baked goods galore.

For many, trans fats make foods affordable. When celebrity chef Jamie Oliver hosted his namesake show “Food Revolution” on ABC, he once opened a family’s freezer jam-packed with frozen pizzas. Why so many, he wondered? They were four for $1 and the price was right for their very cash-strapped family, the mom explained.

When “Eat This, Not That” co-author David Zinczenko was asked on “Good Morning America” about the impact on costs, he estimated the ban could mean a 25 percent increase for food manufacturers. We’d be foolish not to expect price hikes for some foods many have come to rely on. Note this is happening at a time when so many of our congressional leaders are hellbent on cutting food stamps. Nice.

And what exactly will the substitute for trans fats be? Any seasoned cook knows you can’t take something out without putting something in to flavor foods. If you take out a fat, will some form of sugar be added in? Would that really be a good choice in a nation where, according to the latest figures from the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million people have diabetes?

Trans fats have given us foods of ultimate convenience, options that last for what seems like forever. Open a package, zap it in the microwave and minutes later, dinner! We talk about eating fruits and vegetables but still do not consume them in adequate healthful amounts. Eating vegetables usually means we have to chop and do at least a little cooking, and so many have gotten away from eating that way. We don’t want to stop and prepare anything.

The trans fat ban could put a serious crimp on that convenience. You ready for that?

Email: sontiveros@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SueOntiveros



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