The New York Times reports that "The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with plans to prohibit the city's 20,000 restaurants from serving food that contains more than a minute amount of artificial trans fats, the chemically modified ingredients considered by doctors and nutritionists to increase the risk of heart disease."

The paper said that the steps the board took yesterday were not final, but that some sort of action seemed likely. Chicago is also considering a trans fat ban, but only for restaurants with less than $20 million in sales, the Times said. (For the complete news story, click here.)

In a related article, the Times asked chefs and restaurateurs for their reaction. Most of them said that they would not be affected by the move, as they now cook with substances such as olive or peanut oil, which are low in trans fat. One restaurant manager said he thought the board's proposal was a great idea, as a public health measure. Another small restaurant owner called the idea "draconian." A third restaurant manager described himself as on the fence.

E. Charles Hunt, a representative of the New York State Restaurant Association, took a much harder line. "For a health inspector to walk into a mom and pop restaurant in Queens, where they barely speak English, and find a can of Crisco shortening on the shelf and then fine them $1,000," he told the Times, "well, that's unreasonable."

a. Isn't that always the way: where most business owners see gray, a trade group only sees black and white.

And b. This may be the only time this year that a person's lack of fluency in English is put forward as a rationale for less law enforcement. It's a stance both liberals and conservative can hate!

What do you think? If obesity and heart disease are linked to a diet high in artficial trans fat, does the government then have an interest in curtailing its use? Or is this like Prohibition—a dumb law that tries to regulate how people behave, rather than letting individuals make informed decisions on their own? And do you think this would really hurt businesses, or not?

Published on: Sep 27, 2006