This is the problem with government regulation:
“This artificial trans fat is the kind that New York City health officials decided to ban from restaurants, citing health studies that show that even a couple of grams of it a day can significantly increase the chance of a heart attack. Whether natural trans fats have the same health effect is still being explored by scientists, and some researchers believe the natural ones may actually be beneficial.But to the Food and Drug Administration, which is in charge of most packaged food labeling, there is no difference between the trans fat that occurs in cows and other ruminant animals and the kind that is artificially created and favored in large-scale food manufacturing.”
It perverts science and creates irrelevant law while missing half the problem.
The article in today’s NYTimes talks about why some bakers are being forced to switch from butter to processed fats in order to avoid the small amounts of natural trans-fat it contains. This totally proves Michael Pollan’s “nutritionism sucks” argument.
It’s also reminiscent of some of the seemingly bizarre and arcane aspects of Halachah, Jewish law, especially involving Kashrut. We have some written or oral code, whether it is the Torah, Talmud or Federal Register, and since someone once wrote it, even if some detail now (or even at the time as is the case with the FDA rule) makes no scientific or common sense, based on the spirit of the law, the status quo is to follow it to the letter, sometimes even erring on the side of stressing those details over others that are actually useful.
Of course with Pesach coming up, I’m thinking of the restrictions on kitniyot, which have all sorts of serious impacts on the way people who don’t eat meat observe the holiday. I would say spending 8 days worrying about finding protein sources pretty much zaps most of the brainpower that could be spent on, you know, thinking about what it was like to be a slave in Egypt and how we can work towards liberation in our own lives and world. Some might argue that that’s the point, but that doesn’t seem to be the intention, correct me if I’m wrong.
In other Pesach-related minutiae of food ingredients, this thorough blog post talks about why non-Jews should be excited Passover is coming up. Well, at least if they are folks looking for soda without corn syrup and don’t feel like heading down to Mexico.
I had a similar epiphany myself recently, while learning about the make-up and uses of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in a nutrition class. Suddenly the annoying task of looking for Ou-P [hekhshered parve] soda each spring became somewhat ironic, when I realized that there might be a whole segment of the population unaware of this secret source of sugar-sweetened Coke that they could have access to, if only they lived in an area of high-density Jews and happened to know about the intricacies of Jewish dietary tradition for Passover. I doubt it actually affects that many people, but it brings up so many interesting questions about production–
- How much non-HFCS soda is produced for the Kasher L’pesach crowd?
- Is it actually profitable to Coca-Cola/PepsiCo/Cadbury Schweppes/etc. to do so?
- Why do they do it?
- Do they need separate production facilities?
- Would other consumer segments be interested in purchasing a similar product for [clearly] different reasons?
Cross-posted on thegreatworkbegins