The FDA and the Trans Fat Ban

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal today makes the point that the recent ruling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rid the American diet of trans fats more or less hastens what the market was already doing.  And as I never tire of harping about, this piece also reminds us that it was the same FDA and other governmental agencies that foisted trans fats upon us in the first place.

WSJ Trans Fat editorial

Before we get into the fat of the editorial, so to speak, let me take a little side trip to show you a way you can skirt the paywall of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and read anything written without having to pay for it.  The WSJ, like many online news sources, makes money from advertising.  The paper also makes money from subscriptions.  In order to maximize its ad revenue, the WSJ articles have to rank high in Google, but if an article resides behind a firewall Google can’t breach, then Google doesn’t know it exists and isn’t able to use it to calculate the ranking of the paper.  Which suspends the WSJ on the horns of a dilemma.  Do they give the articles away free, get a higher Google rating, and lose the subscription fees, or do they keep the subscription income and suffer in their Google rankings, which means less ad money?  The way the WSJ has solved the problem is by making the all the articles available to the Google search engines while at the same time making them unavailable to anyone who is on the WSJ site and tries to read the full article.

Which gives you the ability to read anything you want in the WSJ by simply Googling the Wall Street Journal and the exact name of the article you want to read.

For example, if you wanted to read the editorial above, you would simply go to Google and enter these words into the search window:  wall street journal trans fats transphobia

If you go that, you’ll be taken to the full text version.  Give it a try.  Then try going through the WSJ site linked here.  When you do, you’ll get a message telling you you need to subscribe to read the rest of the article.

I’ve gone ahead and Googled it for you using the Let Me Google That For You function, which I use when I’m feeling particularly smart assed and someone has asked me a question he/she could just as easily Googled.  It’s a great little way to harmlessly annoy friends and family or anyone else who asks you to spend your time Googling something they themselves could have done. Makes the point.

I’m not doing this to annoy you, however, it just makes it an easy way for me to link to the editorial above.  It will be the first one on the list that comes up when the LMGTFY function does its work.  And here is a little video showing how to use the LMGTFY function should you decide you want to use it yourself.

Okay, digression over.  I hope you at least got something worthwhile from it.

In my view, the editorial makes a couple of key points well worth remembering.

First, though the FDA finally came through and issued a ban (which really isn’t a ban – you can read about it in a post I wrote a while back) against trans fats, it should always be remembered that the government itself was in great part responsible for trans fats replacing good fats in many foods.

… the irony is that government helped to introduce trans fats into the U.S. food supply. The mania over saturated fats in the 1980s was stoked by a series of studies out of the FDA and the National Academy of Sciences that linked those lipids to heart disease. Pressure groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest then targeted food manufacturers for “poisoning Americans” and promoted partially hydrogenated oils as healthier alternatives to lard, butter and coconut oil.

The “low fat” products that resulted often contained more salt and sugar—and trans fats—and thus were probably worse for eaters. The lesson, as always, is to beware government dietary advice other than moderation.

I’ve written about this situation multiple times in the past.  Michael Jacobson (The Guy from CSPI) and the other do-gooders at the CSPI continuously badgered the FDA to force food manufacturers to remove saturated fats from foods and replace them with trans fats.  Now that trans fats have been shown to be problematic, these same agitators were the loudest voices demanding that the government do something to get trans fats out of the food supply.

The moral of the story — in my view, at least — is that government shouldn’t be in the business of telling us what we should or shouldn’t eat.  Diet fads come and go.  Right now the pendulum is swinging more in the direction of the government wanting to tax soft drinks and other sugar rich foods.  But I think that is a dangerous proposition for a couple of reasons.  First, if the dietary winds change, the government could start taxing meat, cheese, eggs and cream because they contain a lot of fat and cholesterol.  Which would not be a good thing.

Second, as Dr. Edward Smith showed over 150 years ago, if the prices of sugar-containing foods go up, people won’t stop buying them; they’ll simply scrimp and short themselves of more nutrition foods. (I apologize for the unreadable graphs in the link – the new site isn’t completely up to snuff yet.)

Much better, in my opinion, for the government to stay out of the business of telling us what we should or shouldn’t eat. I don’t have a problem with labeling laws.  Let them simply tell us what’s in it, and we can make up our own minds.

Another important point the WSJ editorial makes is that this ruling opens the door to legal action against the food industry.

The FDA’s trans fat reversal removes a “generally recognized as safe” label, and the main beneficiary will be the trial bar that is trying to convert Big Food into Big Tobacco. “There is a real risk here that the ruling will open up the industry to class action and tort lawsuits,” says Jennifer Quinn-Barabanov, a commercial litigation expert at Steptoe & Johnson. Most manufacturers used partially hydrogenated oils at one time or another, and the FDA is removing a legal defense that this “was reasonable based on the available scientific research,” she adds.

I think this situation could be disastrous for the food industry, and by extension, for the rest of us. Huge legal fees mean higher prices for food for all of us.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at what has happened to the price of tobacco products over the past couple of decades.

Unlike the tobacco companies, food manufacturers were flim flammed by Uncle Sam.  First they were told to rid their products of saturated fat and replace it with trans fat.  Then when trans fats were found to be more problematic than the saturated fats they replaced, the FDA tells them to change course again.  And leaves them open to the predations of the legal system.  Which could cost us all.  A lot.

What’s your opinion of the FDA’s recent action on trans fats?  Let me know in the comment section.  I doubt that many readers of this blog were consuming many trans fats before the ban, but I’ll be eager to learn the consensus.  Thanks.

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74 thoughts on “The FDA and the Trans Fat Ban

    • I just retested it, and it works perfectly for me. I’m using both Chrome and Safari on a Mac. What browsers and operating system are you using?

    • It will be something to do with your privacy settings/browser.

      Basically, WSJ is using “grey hat” SEO and checking your referrer/user agent/whatever to see where you’re coming from and who you are, if you are Google then as Mike said they need “you” to be able to see the content unrestrained, and to make it quasi-legal SERP-wise they also allow anyone coming *via* Google to access the content.

      But if you’re linked by a friend/Facepalmbook/etc or just type the URL in then they’re going to try and get money out of you for the content. Not specifically a bad thing – good content is worth paying for – but just a bit disingenuous.

  1. A much easier and eloquent way to break the paywall using CHROME for the NYT, WSJ, Barrons, etc. is to copy link to google translate. Translate from English to Spanish (or any language). Once article loads, click box in upper right corner: View Original.

    Another option (CHROME and IOS) is to download app from this reputable site: http://www.breakthepaywall.com/

    Lastly, if you ran out of free NYT monthly clicks, using chrome, open NYT in incognito. Right click articles you want to read and voila. (After about 25 freebies simply clear the cookies and start one more once).

  2. Wait, it retroactively removes the GRAS designation? Isn’t that akin to prosecuting people for breaking the law before it was the law? Ludicrous.

    If anyone needs to be sued it’s CSPI.

  3. Dr. Eades,

    IMO, it’s another example of how the government is always a day late and a dollar short.

    My main concern re the diet we all love – low carb – is that just as we are winning the battle, we will lose the war to the vegetarian crowd. No matter what science will say regarding a healthy diet, they will beat us over the head with ethical issues and force us all to eat lawn clippings.

    • I totally agree with everything in this blog regarding the government staying out of food banning. That would be a healthy start to the government staying out of a lot of other places as well, since all government meddling results in higher prices.
      I am in favor of interstate highways funded and built by the government, but that’s not a ban is it…

  4. Side note: the lmgtfy trick worked for me on Windows 10 preview build 10162 and the new Edge browser.

    It infuriates me that the government foisted the ban on trans-fats and now is requiring it to be removed, while at the same time removing legal protection. I’m sure they left protection in for themselves so we can’t sue them because corporations are evil and government is good.

  5. The WSJ also does some trickery with cookies that prevent you from hitting their site over and over from Google links. If a link doesn’t work for you, one way around it is to right-click the link in the google results, and pick open in new private (Firefox)/incognito (Chrome) window. This will prevent the cookie trick that they use.

  6. The problem now is that saturated fat is still not healthy and vegetable oils are. I have convinced friends saturated fat is good for you but they still could not look at just eggs and bacon and not think about their arteries hardening. Now everyone fries with vegetable oil, we know from the Big Fat Surprise how bad that is for us.

    We’ve gone from bad to bad.

    The Google thing worked fine for me, even from Canada where I am used to being blocked on US sites.

  7. Since much and may be all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes is the fault of government, why don’t the food producers go after the biggest bully. After all if big gov hadn’t started telling us what to eat, we wouldn’t have the trans fat debacle.

    • The gov’t set it up so that it’s pretty hard to sue the gov’t. I wouldn’t have expected anything less of them.

      • Yes. And there’s this little issue of them having the guns, and the public’s imprimatur to use them. Big trump card. Combine that with politicians’ sophistry and the public’s naivete’ and inability to think critically and govt won’t lose that battle.

  8. If the government won’t “clear” saturated fats and wont’t condemn vegetable oils, what will the food companies use to replace transfats?

    • I think the gov’t is well on its way to rehabing saturated fats. When that fully filters down, I think the problem will be solved. Although it will take the masses a while to realize that saturated fats are really okay.

  9. “Much better, in my opinion, for the government to stay out of the business of telling us what we should or shouldn’t eat. I don’t have a problem with labeling laws. Let them simply tell us what’s in it, and we can make up our own minds.” ABSOLUTELY!

  10. “Much better, in my opinion, for the government to stay out of the business of telling us what we should or shouldn’t eat. I don’t have a problem with labeling laws. Let them simply tell us what’s in it, and we can make up our own minds.”

    Assuming, that is, any of US reading this blog actually buy processed food anymore anyway! Less is more. Special interest groups are always going to be lobbying the government with their agendas, including vegetarians, celiacs, diabetics, Big Pharma, Big Food, whatever – but there is so much information on Google (among other places, like Dr. Eades’ blog) about getting truly healthy, that those who want to be healthy can readily find the information they need, without somebody legislating it for us. And basically that means – read a label – and if it has more than one or two ingredients, don’t buy it.

  11. I love your blogs and I hope you keep them coming. I Googled the WSJ article just fine with Internet Exporer. How much damage was done to my family and me using all of that safflower and canola oil in the 70s and 80s? Thanks to you I’ve switched back to saturated fats. I wonder if all that government sponsored damage can be reversed.

    • Yep, lots of other things wrong with MREs too. They like to give them to them during training even when they’re not marching 20 miles a day. Way too many calories and the wrong macro percentages, leaving them with digestive issues, usually constipation. They actually come with laxatives!

  12. I don’t how many years it has been–quite a long time ago–back when I still occasionally ate at McDonalds…I recall when they announced that they would no longer use beef tallow to cook their french fries. At the time I thought McDs had the best fast-food fries..but definitely not after the changeover to some version of vegetable oil.

  13. The link worked fine for me on safari.

    I agree with you. The government should stay out of what we eat and I whole heartedly agree they should label what is in everything and let us decide.

  14. Gave up trans fats when I went on Protein Power, lost 50 lbs of body fat, improved my health; my HbA1c last blood test September…0.05. I’m 70 and feeling better than when I was 20. Go seriously on a diet that doesn’t raise your blood sugar after meals, feel better, be healthier.

    Standing O for the Doctors Eades and others working to illuminate the path to real health (vs fake health through pills and shots).

  15. M. & M.D. E: Love the new site.
    I’ve been on PPLC6 years in November. Wouldn’t have believed it if I had been told how good (i.e. healthy) I’d eventually feel (and actually be). I pass on lots of LC and keto info to my holistic M.D. He asked me at my last appointment (now down to once a year) why I read so much and work so hard at understanding all the info (he’s really very cool). I said “I’m saving my own life! If you told everyone that’s what they have to do, they’d all be more compliant.”
    Maybe not all but, but surely some would. I can’t stop learning. Thanks for all you do.

    • Glad you like the new site. Still a lot of work to do to get it like I want it and clean up the mess from the migration from the old site. A real work in progress.

  16. the American people have like a bunch of lemmings in following whatever the government says is good for their health. they just don’t take time to look into things for themselves and want Big Brother to take their of them.
    we stopped trans fats 10-15 years ago. maybe more.

  17. I agree, government shouldn’t be in the food business at all, in regards to diet, or food production (see raisin crop confiscation), or food pricing (see milk pricing laws). The pressure they put on food companies, health organizations, and citizens regarding faulty real-fat-is-bad research has most likely killed millions. Books like Good Calorie, Bad Calorie and The Big Fat Surprise are dangerous for your blood pressure, the lies are maddening.

    Frankly, until we adopted a ketogenic lifestyle about 18 months ago, we ate what we liked, which was heavily carb-based – pasta, bread, baked potatoes, etc. I didn’t really pay attention to the type of fat, just knew in general that fat was bad after decades of brain-washing.

    Now, of course, we use butter, coconut oil, nut oils, ghee, and some olive oil. I keep all of our bacon grease as well. I did use butter before. I figured a smaller amount of a better-tasting real food was healthier than more of a Frankenfood. Unfortunately, my parents are still in the Dr. Ornish camp with their supposedly heart-heathy, lab-created margarine.

    We are the healthiest we’ve ever been, I’m 60 lbs lighter, and we’re both very active. We are in our early 50s with no health issues and not on ANY medications, save for some supplements like magnesium and D3. The food we eat tastes amazing. All because we traded sugar and grains for healthy fats. It’s truly been a miraculous experience.

  18. Gov’t nutrition advice is and continues to be a disaster. I’m still miffed that the food pyramid is being promoted. But a even bigger failure looms…US Federal Reserve policy. When that day comes (and its coming soon) Americans will be both fat and poor!

  19. In my opinion the ones to blame for all this misleading in diet and health is the doctors and scientist NOT doing the job thye are supposed to, NOT being curious enough not asking enough questions to the existing science. They are the ones who are supposed to know. It is them who have the education to do so. It should not be me, who have no education in health and science.

    I am sorry about my english, I am from Denmark.

  20. Whenever the truth becomes apparent, they have to reassure people about their honesty and their concern about public health, and they ban the “evil” in order to defend such value. I think it’s just another well orchestrated trick, they will turn into another “safe” thing to put inside the stuff we call “food”, until it will become another evil… no corporation or lobby will pay for that, neither the government nor any other political organ, only people are gonna pay, with money and health.

  21. Let’s also not forget that when the government put the corrective tariffs on sugar, that that has directly lead to the invention and continued use of high-fructose corn syrup.

    • What was the name of that old book that went over that whole fiasco? Was it Sugar Nation? The Sugar Crisis? I can’t remember anymore other than that it was a fairly small book with a navy blue cover.

  22. I had the same experience reading at other sites where the content required my sign-on … just Google the topic. It does work.
    As for the rest: “Welcome to the Corporate States of America” If you want to find an impetus for seemingly mindless directives – follow the money. Take the Pharma industry as an example: they are “bottom line” sensitive, and they are NOT in the business of remediation; they are in the business of return business. And our Gov’t is either culpable or ignorant in their involvement with merchandising and product development of any harmful deliverable, regardless of industry designation.

  23. Doc, your reference to Dr Edward Smith’s finding about sugar consumption harkened me back to an economics lecture about 25 years ago and a discussion of “Giffen Goods”.. that is a product that, as the price rises, so does consumption. Or as economists would say, it has negative price elasticity.This rare phenomenon is attributed to economist Robert Giffen who noted in the early 1800s that poor Victorians ate more bread as the price of bread increased.

    Rice and flour are thought to be Giffen goods in poor regions of China.

    Gee, what does bread, sugar, rice and flour all have in common?

  24. A ban or whatever it is on trans fats is somewhat irresponsible without a coordinated rescision of past rulings from on high against good saturated fats. The restaurant industry will likely balk at future bullying after having had to invest in the switch away from other saturated fats, even if they remain responsive to consumer pressure.

  25. One again, Dr. Eades, you’re hitting the nail on the head. A rush to judgment and an extreme measure based largely on a “fad” is a recipe for disaster, just like the former FDA Food Pyramid, foisted on the public by the anti-fat Nazis and Vegetaranians.

    Once more, as you’ve pointed out in the past, the political economy of the food industry continuing romance with capitalism is rife with a new solution that is hasty, not well researched and potentially dangerous.

  26. Absolutely, the government put trans fats in our diet and now that it is found to bad it is asking for it to be replaced. If they just stayed out we would not be in this situation in the first place. Taxing sugary drinks in not going to stop most people. They are just going to pay extra and drink it anyway.

  27. This is not related to the topic but I cannot find any way to connect with Amazon anymore on your site so you get the pennies from orders. Are you still participating in that program?

    • Yep, and I appreciate your help with it. Go to the Books page and click on one of those. It should take you into Amazon through our portal. Thanks very much.

      • Thanks, that does indeed work!

        Now another off topic (and hopefully not pesky) question: Do you know what happened to Dr. Briffa? He has not posted anything on his blog since last August….

        • I’m not aware of anything that has happened to Dr. Briffa. Maybe he just got tired of posting. As I know from experience, it’s a time consuming activity, and a lot of people just get tired of it.

  28. I agree with you that no government should tell us what to eat. The problem is that the facts of nutrition are absolutely confusing with the changes that go on all the time. First eggs are bad, now they are good…. I know they are good, by the way.
    FDA is spending time and resources on what we should eat, but not on what can be dangerous for our health. For example, all the food additives that have very bad side effects and have not been studied.
    Great website.

  29. I believe that anything the FDA or any other branch of government has to say about health or diet is unreliable and have thought so for years. I don’t eat transfats. Good article.

  30. I still see a lot of products on store shelves that have hydrogenated oils. If the market is phasing them out, then it’s a pretty slow process.