Favorite

Ban trans fats? 

Banned in New York City. Banned in Philadelphia. Banned in Brookline, Mass. Banned in Montgomery County, Md. But what about Arkansas? Could it be a battleground in the struggle against trans fats?

In a state that cherishes its hushpuppies and fried catfish, it may seem a laughable suggestion — but that doesn’t mean state officials aren’t taking it seriously. Joe Thompson, the state’s chief medical officer, points out that awareness of the detriments of trans fats has been spreading, and that’s the first step toward their elimination. He thinks trans fats are doomed in the long run, and he says they will go in one of two ways: “Either consumers decide they don’t want to deal with [trans fats], or the health issues become overwhelming” and the government imposes a ban.

Eaters have a choice in what they consume, but there’s also a problem of supply. The more producers use trans fats in their foods, the more difficult it will be for consumers to watch their intake. Since the beginning of last year, the Food and Drug Administration has tried to make the healthy eater’s task easier by requiring that trans fats be marked on nutritional labels. The move has had some effect, particularly on product promotion. (You may have noticed that your bag of Doritos shouts that it has “NO TRANS FATS.”)

But even if a nutrition label says that a food is trans-fat free, that might not be true — companies are allowed to slap a goose egg in the trans-fat column if their product contains less than half a gram per serving. To be totally sure you’re not ingesting the stuff, you need to look at the list of ingredients; if “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” is there, you’re being tainted.

But tainted with what, exactly? Trans fats are essentially naturally occurring vegetable oils that are synthetically modified with hydrogen; they’re useful to processed food makers because they ensure products keep longer. They’re also a key component in margarine, shortening and oils, and they’re often found in pies, cakes and deep-fried foods. Though difference of opinion exists, the prevailing theory seems to be that trans fats make for better pie crusts and doughnuts, among other items.

Eat enough of them, though, and you increase your risk of heart problems. According to a 2006 study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, “10 percent to 19 percent of chronic heart disease events in the United States could be averted by reducing the intake of trans fat.” (Contrary to popular perception, there’s no identified link between trans-fat intake and obesity — although, to be sure, peach cobbler doesn’t make you any thinner.)

There are rarely labels, of course, to tell you about the food you order when you eat out, which explains why the bans in effect across the country target restaurants. Some restaurant owners in Arkansas are taking steps to beat lawmakers to the punch. Jose’s, a Mexican restaurant with outlets in Fayetteville and Springdale, has already phased them out of their foods by switching oils. (They use canola oil; soy oil is also a healthy pick, and peanut oil runs third.)

Nick Davidson, kitchen manager of the Springdale location, says there were a couple of reasons behind the decision. “We didn’t have customers asking for it,” he says. “It was going to get regulated eventually, but this is also the healthiest thing for our customers.” The switch didn’t come without a cost — he says Jose’s now takes an additional weekly hit of at least $120 on frying oil.

Restaurateurs don’t need to sweat the long arm of the law just yet, at least not on the state level. Sen. Tracy Steele has plans to conduct a study of the issue, but the earliest possible date for legislation would be 2009, when state lawmakers reconvene in Little Rock.

Thompson, however, is betting that won’t be necessary. He thinks that, once they know what they’re dealing with, consumers will phase trans fats out of their diets before the law has to cut the supply chain. For now, though, raising awareness remains the goal. “I think we’re clearly in the educational phase,” he says.

— John Williams

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Williams

Readers also liked…

  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Asa on pre-K

    • Aug 17, 2016

Most Shared

  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

  • Historian out

    Another DAH defection.
    • Feb 15, 2018
  • DYS to keep youth lockups

    Will do further study before seeking private provider.
    • Feb 8, 2018
  • ADC can't retain guards

    More than a third of new hires in 2017 left before the year was up. The culture is the problem, former guards say.
    • Feb 1, 2018
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Locked away and forgotten

    In 2017, teenagers committed to rehabilitative treatment at two South Arkansas juvenile lockups did not receive basic hygiene and clothing supplies and lived in wretched conditions.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation