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May 30, 2024

Consumers deserve the right to choose on trans fats

By CARISSA ZUKOWSKI | December 6, 2013

Every day of my life, I am granted the privilege of choice. I choose who I speak with, how to engage with my classes, and where I go. Most importantly, I choose how I treat my body. This includes what I eat and how I exercise. I have the knowledge available to me to make informed and educated choices on these matters. But this past November, the FDA took it upon themselves to ban trans fats in American food products. If this ban succeeds, I will lose the ability to choose what I will and will not eat. Someone will have already chosen for me.

Back in 1999, the FDA proposed that manufacturers be required to indicate a product’s trans fats on the nutrition label. Clear and concise, the label helps weigh the pros and cons of processed foods in particular. But this is where the FDA should have stopped. The very purpose of making a food’s nutrition information available to the public was so that consumers could make the most educated choice about their diet.

The FDA’s ban of trans fats is an effort to reduce American obesity, as well as lower fatalities from heart disease and heart attack. While this is an admirable cause, it is not the FDA’s fight.

The FDA’s main concern is the presence of PHOs in processed foods. PHOs are partially hydrogenated oils that are no longer deemed GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe,” according to the FDA’s website. Well, there are a lot of things more harmful and not GRAS in America’s Food and Drug world, but the FDA isn’t up in arms about tackling those right now, are they? No, they are focused on monitoring our frozen pizza intake and threatening a Baltimore legend.

The half-frosting, half-shortbread cookie native to Baltimore known as the Berger cookie is in jeopardy if the FDA does not make an exception for this particular small business. The Berger cookie was born when a family of German immigrants, the Bergers, opened their bakery’s doors to East Baltimore in the late 1800s. Since then, the cookie has called Baltimore its home.

In a recent interview, the bakery announced that they will try to work a recipe without trans fats if the FDA fails to grant an exemption by January 7th. But until then, they won’t change a thing - customers like them just the way they are. The bakery is open about the fact that their cookies are not healthy. The fudge coated cookie is deadly delicious and the definition of glutinous, but one will certainly not kill you. Like most products containing trans fats, they have to be consumed in moderation. And this is where it is up to the consumer.

The consumer has to be responsible for their own health. Those who prove incapable of making the right choices have deeper rooted issues that no FDA policy will change. People need to take accountability for how they treat their bodies. Education is the only way to create sustainable and prolonged change in society, which is why good living habits should be implemented by parents and by teachers. The government can implement whatever regulation they want, but it cannot protect us from everything. We have to take the initiative ourselves and be proactive in our health.

No one is making anyone eat excessive amounts of trans fats. The only reason it has become an issue is because the American people have made it one through over consumption. America’s rising obesity cannot be battled by government administration; it has to be fought by the people.

Instead of the FDA wasting resources to eliminate trans fats, the FDA should be creating programs to teach people why trans fats should be avoided. The FDA should be educating the public about why they should even care about taking care of themselves, and then giving them the means to make their own choice for change.

The efforts made by the Food and Drug Administration are the wrong step in the right direction. Something should be done in order to create a healthier society, but this ban is not the answer. As soon as PHOs are eliminated, something else will be of detriment to our health and the FDA will intervene once again. The FDA is not responsible for eliminating all threats. Instead, it should create safety through education. Nothing in society will change until its members gain the will to change it themselves.

Carissa is a freshman majoring in English and Art History from Baltimore, M.D. She is an Opinions Staff Writer for the News-Letter.

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