Do you believe your local government exists to protect you? Does your local government have the right to decide what you eat and how you eat it?
On Tuesday, New York City announced plans to require all trans fats gets cut out of your diet when you eat out whether you want it that way or not:

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. …

If approved, the proposal voted on yesterday by the Board of Health would make New York the first large city in the country to strictly limit such fats in restaurants. Chicago is considering a similar prohibition affecting restaurants with less than $20 million in annual sales.
The New York prohibition would affect the city’s entire restaurant industry, by far the nation’s largest, from McDonald’s to fashionable bistros to street corner takeouts across the five boroughs. …
Officials said that the typical American diet now contains 5.8 grams of trans fats per day, and that a single five-ounce serving of French fries at many restaurants contained 8 grams of trans fats.

If the role of the government is to provide for the public welfare,
shouldn’t that role begin with what bites between your bicuspids and
greases down your gullet?

Isn’t a healthier you — even if earned by forced restrictions and
mandated ingredients — always in your best interest and in the bigger
and better interest of the city residents surrounding you?
On Thursday, Robert De Niro — actor and New York City restaurant owner of Nobu and Tribeca Grill — was pulled into the fray by the mayor of New York:

De Niro, an owner and investor in several culinary
hotspots, went to City Hall on Thursday for a news conference related
to his Tribeca Film Festival but stayed for the mayor’s general
briefing with the press, at which Bloomberg was asked about the health
department’s trans fats ban. …

With De Niro standing behind him, the mayor pointed out that many food
makers already have eliminated trans fats on their own, following the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirement this year that
ingredient labels show trans fat content. Companies including Frito-Lay
and Kraft have reconfigured recipes for many of their most popular
packaged goods, including Doritos and Oreos, replacing the trans fats,
which are typically listed as partially hydrogenated oil….

“If you look at some of the best restaurants in this city, including
Robert De Niro’s, they do not use trans fats because they don’t need
them in their food and there’s no reason to have them,” Bloomberg said.

If you decide to break the trans fat ban by bringing your own unhealthy
oil into a restaurant and spreading it over your meal and the meals of
your wife and children, should you be arrested for being a danger to
yourself and others as well as endangering the welfare of a child?


  1. Hi David,
    My libertarian “spider senses” are tingling.
    Where does it stop?
    In Chicago, they banned foie gras and tried to ban Wal-Mart until Target and other retailers threatened to move to the suburbs.
    Why can’t we make our own decisions about what we want to do.
    Educate us. Persuade us. But, don’t ban things just because you don’t like them.
    Just because someone gets sick eating a McMuffin for breakfast as that guy in “Supersize Me” did doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to swing into Mickey D’s to get one for myself if I choose. If I decide to eat a McGriddle every morning (or for every meal if the 24 hour breakfast plan goes into effect), then I should bear the consequences and it shouldn’t concern the government.
    Maybe one of these days, I’ll be able to get $4 bottles of Vytorin from good-ole Wal-Mart! 🙂

  2. Hi Chris!
    I agree with you! We should be able to make our own decisions. The mayor is daring, though. This falls on the heels of the success of his smoking ban in NYC. People responded to the smoking ban. So far, the response on the street has been lukewarm to being offended at this attempt to ban trans fats.
    It does seem, though, according to the article, that Chicago is next on the trans fats hit list! Good luck with that, Chris!
    Next thing you know we’ll be told to stand up straighter because if you can breathe better you can better oxygenate your body and that will lower healthcare costs for all of us. Each street corner will have a “posture station” where you will be randomly checked for appropriate standing and if you don’t measure up, you will be instantly taxed $10 dollars for the infraction.

  3. The bans don’t really do any good, especially in our area because the state line always makes a difference.
    Chicago’s bans are good for Northwest Indiana’s businesses, so I encourage them out of my area’s economic interest to keep making lists of things of prohibitions. 🙂
    Our local businesses often ask for a zip code at the cash register because a certain percentage of shoppers are from Chicago because our sales taxes are lower and because we have “big boxes.”
    Foie gras is illegal in Chicago, but if you want to get some, take a short drive on the Skyway or for less than $10 for a ticket hop onto the Metra South Shore line to the Miller Bakery Cafe to get your fill of duck liver. You can even drink on the train while you are riding back to the city, so buy a bottle of wine for the trip. 😉
    The same thing goes for gasoline and cigarettes — which have extra taxes in the city. Hit the Skyway again and just look for all of the cars right at the state line at the gas stations offering both.
    Why pay $70 for a carton in the city, when you can take a short drive and get the same thing for $40 less?
    Gas is $2.16 now at many places in NW Indiana.
    Why pay $2.98 per gallon as reports is the price today at the BP located at Lawrence and Marine Drive in Chicago?
    The same thing goes for some of the risque things Chicago has banned. Does anyone ever talk about any famed clubs within the city limits? Never, because there aren’t any places people think of inside Chicago. People all go across the state line or to the ‘burbs to watch the artistry of the female form.
    And, I almost forgot about fireworks.
    Why are all of the firework stands located right at the state line? Is it because Indiana residents enjoy picking up $300 worth of bottle rockets on their trip into the city? 🙂
    Banning or taxing things doesn’t stop people from getting what they really want.

  4. Chris!
    It’s fascinating how clearly you’ve argued these bans are good for the body and spirit, but terrible for local businesses that have to suffer against the ban! It’s almost laugh out loud funny it’s all so ridiculous!
    So you can go to Miller Bakery and take foie gras back into Chicago and eat it at home, right? What kind of a ban is that? It should be illegal to eat it, not just to sell it, yes? The foie gras ban should be the same as a drugs ban, hmm? Punish the dealer and the buyer, eh?

  5. I think the bans are always done in a “feel good spirit” but they really don’t work because people always like the banned substances. I can see banning crystal meth, but banning food is silly.
    We need to educate, rather than regulate!
    Pretty soon, we’ll have a “war on food” and Twinkie dealers will be hiding in failed public housing projects with cases of the banned fatty foods selling them through holes in the walls and cracks in their doors.
    A New Jersey pol is proposing a foie gras ban that has more teeth than Chicago’s because it prohibits distribution of the “devil food.”

    Top chefs in New York City are squawking over a New Jersey lawmaker’s plans to propose legislation that would ban the distribution and sale of foie gras in New Jersey, where a major supplier of the delicacy is based.
    Assemblyman Michael Panter said he plans to introduce the bill next week because the production of foie gras is a “barbaric practice that has no place in any civilized society.” The legislation also would prohibit the distribution of the fattened fowl livers from New Jersey or into the state.

    Source: International Herald Tribune
    Pretty soon, we’ll have a reorganized BATF — Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fatty Acids — to track down people distributing trans-fat and foie gras. 🙂

  6. Wouldn’t the ban only make people want it more? If you tell a kid “Don’t do _____.” doesn’t it make it more appealing to them?
    I noticed that when a lot of people say their going on a diet that’s when they want what they’re not supposed to eat. A person on Atkins will stare longingly at french fries or pasta at someone else’s table. Probably why I don’t diet.

  7. Hi Chris —
    I am actually in favor of a total foie gras ban:

    Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is made from the grotesquely enlarged livers of male ducks and geese. The birds are kept in tiny wire cages or packed into sheds. Pipes are repeatedly shoved down the birds’ throats, and up to 4 pounds of grain and fat are pumped into their stomachs two or three times every day. The pipes puncture many birds’ throats, sometimes causing the animals to bleed to death. This cruel procedure causes the birds’ livers to become diseased and swell to up to 10 times their normal size. Many birds become too sick to stand up. The birds who survive the force-feeding are killed, and their livers are sold for foie gras.
    Just because people want it doesn’t mean they should have it. Stopping cruel treatment of others begins in treating animals less cruelly.
    I realize when it comes to animals the majority of the people will eat them, but I do appreciate efforts to make the lives of the animals a little more tolerable before they are killed.
    KFC used to use a hot razor to shave off the beaks of young chicks so they wouldn’t peck each other in the tiny cages –- a natural reaction to being cooped up too tight against each other — and destroy their “meat value.”
    Organizations like PETA stood up to KFC — called them on their cruelty — and now young chicks don’t suffer in as tiny cages and their beaks are kept intact.
    Don’t get me started on veal!

    Veal calves are forced to spend their short lives in individual crates that are no more than 30 inches wide and 72 inches long.(6) These crates are designed to prohibit exercise and normal muscle growth in order to produce tender “gourmet” veal. The calves are fed a milk substitute that is purposely low in iron so that they will become anemic and their flesh will stay pale.(7)
    Because of these extremely unhealthy living conditions, calves raised for veal are susceptible to a long list of diseases, including chronic pneumonia and diarrhea. A study published in the Journal of Animal Science found that calves who were kept in “smaller housing units” had difficulty keeping themselves clean and had trouble “extending their front legs and changing from a lying to a standing position,” which resulted in joint swelling. It was also determined that stereotypical stress behaviors such as tongue rolling and “sham-chewing” (the act of chewing without food in the mouth) increase when smaller pens were used and as calves got older.(8)
    After enduring 12 to 23 weeks in these conditions, these young animals, many of whom can barely walk because of muscle atrophy or sickness, are crowded into metal trucks for transport to the slaughterhouse.(9) On these trucks, they are trampled and suffer from temperature extremes and lack of food, water, and veterinary care.
    Veal crates are prohibited in Britain, and the European Union has instructed its members to phase them out by the end of 2007.(10) In the meantime, Dutch farmers are required to keep calves in group pens.(11)

  8. Right AS!
    Read any book on marketing and “Don’t” will be mentioned as a powerful selling tool.
    Being “Banned in Boston” was a good thing!

    This movement had several consequences. One was that Boston, a cultural center since its founding, was perceived as less sophisticated than many cities without stringent censorship practices. Another was that the phrase “banned in Boston” became associated, in the popular mind, with something lurid, sexy, and naughty. Commercial distributors were often pleased when their works were banned in Boston—it gave them more appeal elsewhere. Some falsely claimed that their works were banned in Boston to promote them.

    Source: Wikipedia “Banned in Boston”
    Whatever you do, MAKE SURE YOU DON’T READ THIS!!!!
    I bet you read it anyway. 😉

  9. A S —
    The point of the ban is there are replacements for trans-fats that are healthier fats and no one can really tell the difference in taste — so why allow a known killer to be served when there are healthier alternatives available?
    The status quo rarely changes unless challenged and pushed.

  10. Hi David,
    I think education works better than banning foie gras or anything else.
    And, I’d rather get my eggs from a farm that treats their birds nicely, or my slab of meat from a place that buys cows that have been given humane care before being slaughtered, such as famed investigative journalist Bill Kurtis’ Tallgrass steaks.

    Tallgrass Beef is a pure, natural product of the great American prairie. The beef comes from cattle that spent their lives on the open range or improved pastures eating only natural grasses and forages. No synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products are used. Tallgrass Beef is comparable in cholesterol and calories to a boneless, skin-less chicken breast and equal in omega-3 fatty acids on an ounce-by-ounce basis with salmon.

    Source: ABC 7 Chicago.
    I don’t like the idea of what they do to fowl to jam it’s liver full of trans-fatty acids. And, I don’t like liver, so I was never inclined to ever order the food.
    Given a choice, if I’m going to get something bad for me, I’ll take a nice spinach pizza or maybe a Spinach Ceasar Salad with lots of hard boiled eggs and extra dressing. 🙂
    But, I have to admit I’m a little curious about foie gras because it’s banned.

  11. My libertarian senses twitched too – I feel we should be able to make “informed choices” about what we eat/put into our bodies. To make those choices we need information and education – so we can not only choose what to eat – but where to eat it. ( How about a nice skull and crossbones with the wording we use transfats – similar to the smoking kills warnings on cigarettes? )
    The situation and the argument over healthcare costs is slightly different in the UK. In the USA – I beleive you pay for your own healthcare through insurance? So I would say you have the right to consume what you like because you are paying ( financially and otherwise) yourself. – You pay your money and make your choice.
    The healthcare system in the UK is funded by the government through our taxes. It is under enormous pressure from the costs of treating obesity and diabetes – in particular the number of children and young people who are suffering from them. This is now causing a lot of concern as there is only a limited *pot* available to spend and high expenditure on these treatments means that there is less available to spend on other services and drugs such as the new cancer treatments available.
    This row is further fuelled by the dicsussions bought about by TV Chef Jamie Oliver – who is fighting a campaign for healthy school meals – after discovering what appalling nutritional value they offered – (if any). They had deteriorated to high sugar, high trans fat, highly manufactured, Monosodium glutamate ridden and E number laden “gloop”.
    And for the full visual effect ………
    The row has come about because the government through our taxes was providing these meals for the children – they had no choice. (Not quite forced feeding – but not far from it.) So you had one arm of the government causing a problem for the other arm.
    Convenience (highly processed foods) have suddenly become very inconvenient! The “hidden costs” are now becoming apparent.
    As a personal note I eat very little manufactured food – 90% of what I eat I prepare myself – even bread when I remember to !
    Time – and convenience is what is at the nub of this – people no longer have the time to prepare meals – it is much easier to buy a packet of ready made or frozen food – rather that prepare it themselves.

  12. Healthier and no one can tell the difference? That’s what people said about margarine as a butter substitute only to find that it was less healthy and more closely linked to heart disease? And the taste was not very similar at all, at least not to me or 80% of the people I usually hang out with.
    If they want people to be healthier they should make healthy foods more affordable. With parents always on the go working hard to make ends meet, do you think it would be easier to prepare a meal that takes time shopping at the market, time to prepare it, etc. or would it be easier to grab something for the kids, and themselves because their already there, off of the dollar menu at McDonald’s? The healthier alternatives on the menu are either less filling or more expensive or both.
    Also, the pollutants in the air in certain cities is known to slowly kill people but there is no requirement that everyone should have their own oxygen tank.

  13. Should something that could bring peace to the middle east, or maybe between Israel and Palestine be banned because it’s messing with mother nature and our food?

    Scientists are changing the sex of fish to make them meatier. The idea is to turn females into males so they’ll grow faster and gain more weight.
    This has already been accomplished with synthetic steroids; now Israeli and Palestinian scientists are trying it with natural plant compounds, which presumably are less dangerous to eat.
    Official spin: The project is breaking down the walls between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Unofficial spin: It’s breaking down the walls between male and female.

    One of these days, NYC and Chicago will be considering banning trans-gendered fish. 😉

  14. I forgot to show Slate was the source for transgendered fish story.
    Is it right to have meatier fish, if the fish suffers gender confusion as a result? 🙂

  15. Chris —
    Yes, meat has become a lowest-common-denominator industry to get the most meat out of the tiniest bodies. If you want to eat meat, it makes the most sense to eat it from an animal who lives a normal life before finding the slaughterhouse — especially if you believe stress and misery and drugs that the animals must deal with affect the quality of your eating experience.

  16. Nicola!
    Do you believe second hand smoke kills?
    Do you believe if people who do not care what they put into their bodies place an unnecessary drain on national healthcare resources?
    Is it better for the state to pay for the healthcare of someone who cared about their body than someone who abused it with improper food over the stretch of a lifetime?

  17. That’s exactly why the meat that comes from the japanese cows that are fed lovingly and given regular massages costs so much. The cows die at their peak and the meat, according to its fans, is the best you will ever find.
    Me? I’ll stick to quinoa, millet, or brown rice with extra virgin olive oil, parsley, and a touch of garlic. No trans fat and no death all in one nice loving bowl that costs under $1.00 per bowl. 🙂

  18. A S!
    We know now about trans fats than we did even 10 years ago. If trans fats kill via cholesterol and raised blood pressure, why allow them to continue to be ingested by the public?
    Olivo, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Promise and Country Crock all provide zero trans fats alternatives to traditional margarine and butter — why not use them if it will help you live longer?
    Why not mandate a forced choice on the healthy side of eating in a restaurant rather than turning a blind eye to the research and science that proves trans fats kill?

  19. David
    Q.Do you believe second hand smoke kills?
    A. In some circumstances yes – the same as alcohol, driving, pollution and a number of other environmental factors.
    Q.Do you believe if people who do not care what they put into their bodies place an unnecessary drain on national healthcare resources?
    A. This is not my personal belief.
    Q.Is it better for the state to pay for the healthcare of someone who cared about their body than someone who abused it with improper food over the stretch of a lifetime?
    A. Again this is not my personal belief.

  20. David – give me the facts and the substantiated research to back them up and then I will make an informed decision !
    We live in an age where we have introduced many new things into our diets, introduced many new chemicals into both the food chain and the atmoshphere and have changed our lifestyles significantly without proper investigation into their consequences.
    I think there are many significant factors that need to be taken into consideration.

  21. Time constraints or personal inability may not allow a person to cook their own foods. I know people that would do more damage to themselves (and people in the kitchen with them) trying to make a salad than if they ate a dozen eggs cooked in butter.

  22. Hi David,
    Our society and our systems of law are based on stare decisis so the fear that many libertarian-minded folks have is that banning one form of activity for health reasons or some other concern for the common good could result in the government moving more and more into our lives.
    If we allow the government to infringe upon our to make determinations about what to do with our bodies in relation to our food intake, it might result in determinations about what other activities we can do with our bodies.
    I have a deeply held position on a certain issue. Many people who hold a similar view to mine always suggest complete bans as their solution.
    I know a ban won’t work and a better way is to gently persuade people to change their opinion rather than forcing them underground to keep doing the same thing the ban was hoping to stop. Teach prevention and provide education to prevent problems before they happen.
    This same process of winning the hearts and minds should be used in the good food vs. bad food debate.
    The fear is that once we allow one intrusion into our lives — even for something as good as making sure we’re healthy and safe — the next intrusion to make us healthy and safe might be the one that ruins somebody’s rights to the pursuit of happiness.
    Today it might be food that is banned.
    Tomorrow, it could be police officers peeking through your blinds to make sure you aren’t doing something “harmful” with your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, or group of people if you have a large enough bedroom.

  23. Nicola!
    Are you not aware of the substantiated scientific research proving second hand smoke is damaging; and that purposefully obese people strain our overall healthcare system; and that states and nations (like Canada) already deny certain healthcare procedures based on overall health because of the life choices of the patients?
    If that is really your claim — that these things are mere beliefs and not common-knowledge facts — then it alarmingly suggests a certain foreign intellectual coyness on your part that is particularly disappointing.
    I don’t feel the need to point you to general knowledge pools of proof on these already-determined facts, but here’s one that’s just too enticing not to share:

    Health care is meant to be open to everyone equally. But some doctors question, even deny, treatment to those with certain vices.
    It’s a touchy subject. So touchy that after an hour-long interview, one Calgary orthopaedic surgeon decides he wants to remain anonymous. From New Brunswick, where a surgeon recently cancelled an operation on a crippled man’s leg, a Moncton Hospital spokesperson calls asking Maclean’s to stop trying to contact the doctor.
    At issue: health care for patients with self-destructive vices — overeating, smoking, drinking or drugs.
    More and more doctors are turning them away or knocking them down their waiting lists — whether patients know that’s the reason or not. Frightening stories abound. GPs who won’t take smokers as patients.
    Surgeons who demand obese patients lose weight before they’ll operate, or tell them to find another doctor.
    Transplant teams who turn drinkers down flat.
    Doctors say their decisions make sense: why spend thousands of dollars on futile procedures?

  24. Chris —
    I agree it is the government’s job to look out for the public welfare.
    We don’t drive 100 MPH here — though they do in Germany — we drive around 65 MPH because we think it is safer.
    When there is a proven danger, however, that second hand smoke kills and that trans fats kills – isn’t it in the public interest to regulate those dangers or are we just supposed to ignore them as personal choices?
    I don’t want to breathe your second-hand smoke and I don’t want to pay for your heart transplant in higher insurance rates just because you chose to ignore scientific proof against trans fats to eat McDonald’s and Twinkies all day.
    It is proven in the history of our nation that as new dangers are identified and scientifically confirmed, it is the responsibility of the state to act in the best interest of the people. That is why we have Public Health programs and mandatory vaccines and the Center for Disease Control — their job is to legally enforce our better interests in spite of our own selfish needs.

  25. does the gov’t exist to protect me? heck, no!
    i, like chris, feel my libertarian spidey senses buzzing. bzzzzzzzzzz … can you hear that? lol. apparently we do not take lessons from history? did widespread prohibition of alcohol work? has the war on drugs worked? has gun control proved effective (here in canada)? we all know the answers to all these questions is “no.” so why don’t these politicians?
    we can have all the bans we wanna. i think these bans are sort of a way for societies to clear their collective conscienses. makes them feel they are taking action. in the end each individual in this society will continue the behaviours that meet their needs. even if they know it may or will harm their well being. and, wrt food choices, the bottom line for low income people happens to be the bottom line. healthy food costs. more than does the junque – fast and processed food.
    and … where should government intrusion into one’s personal lifestyle choices end? isn’t sort of arrogant and orwellian for a group of elected officials to assume they know what’s best for me? or you? or anyone out there? and … does society really remain ‘free’ when we begin attaching a label of ‘strang verboten’ to certain lifestyle choices?
    a great post. thanx for making me think. i appreciate you writiing and dialoguing here. i wonder, i have worked in harm reduction in vancouver’s notorious downtown eastside. this experience really spiked my learning curve. perhaps there’s something in all that i could write about for you, here? i’m not sure what though. i’m interested to know what you think.

  26. velvet —
    I’m not saying I don’t agree with Chris’ trembling! I’m just arguing a side that no one else here seems to want to defend in order to try to keep things fair and fairly interesting!
    I’d love to have an article on “vancouver’s notorious downtown eastside” published here! Write it up! Read our Writing Tips page first, though:

  27. Excellent message, Dave!
    I think the idea is if you force Kraft to change their ingredients for NY — they’ll just change it for everyone because it’s too hard to make a change for just one state and that, in turn, leads the pack on health and benefits all states by default.
    There is a move afoot in the insurance industry to save money and deny treatment on any grounds they can and I’m telling everyone right now the key new method is to that is to blame the patient.
    There will be genetic proof sooner than later if a person has the “Overeating” gene and if you do, be prepared to be denied service because it will be a “pre-existing condition” and if you don’t, then the fault is yours for a lack of self control. You pay either way!
    If you have the alcohol gene and you drink — look out! Your bad liver is your fault and not ours: So you pay 100% of the surgery.
    Smokers are already paying higher premiums and some companies refuse to even hire Smokers in the first place because just by making that one hire of a Smoker their insurance rates overall will go up for every employee and the entire business. Smokers can be denied employment because Smoking is a choice and not a right.
    There is more than a healthy reason to eat and live healthy — there soon will be an economic punishment as well for those who consciously choose to belie scientific facts that will ultimately be turned against them as a cudgel: “You know better. You should have behaved better.”
    I also tell people if they want to lose a lot of weight quickly, but safely – to limit your intake to 3 grams a day of saturated fat/trans fat — and the weight will brilliantly come off your body because to cure your hunger you will be forced to ear more veggies and beans and other healthy bits you currently ignore.
    Here’s an excellent informational sheet on trans fats:

  28. Should the government do more to require Americans to get into better shape?
    Afterall, if snipers and terrorists were killing Americans the same way double cheeseburgers with bacon and extra mayo were dropping ’em, we’d be mobilizing the troops to fight an all out war!
    The figures are stunning:

    Estimates for the year 2003 are that 71,300,000 Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
    * High blood pressure — 65,000,000.
    * Coronary heart disease — 13,200,000.
    o Myocardial infarction (mi”o-KAR’de-al in-FARK’shun) (acute heart attack) — 7,200,000.
    o Angina pectoris (AN’jih-nah or an-JI’nah PEK’tor-is) (chest pain or discomfort caused by reduced blood supply to the heart muscle) — 6,500,000.
    * Stroke — 5,500,000.

    We all need to get outside and excerise more to prevent our hearts from getting clogged.
    Experts say 30 minutes of physical activity can keep us fit and healthy.
    When I was a kid living at Pictanny Arsenal, I remember hearing soldiers running in the morning several times in the summertime. [It was unusual, because soldiers usually didn’t run through the housing areas — probably because their sing-song chants weren’t always appropriate for the non-military dependents living in those areas. 🙂 ]
    Maybe we should have a required physical-training time every day.
    Kids used to be required to take physical education in order to graduate from school.
    We don’t really get to know our neighbors anyway, so this might be a great time to get to know those people a little down the block.
    Each neighborhood could gather its residents to run around the block a couple of times under the supervision of a “coach” or “drill instructor.” Maybe old retired gym teachers and former Marine drill instructors could be recruited to whip America into shape!
    If you failed to show up, a notation could be made in the good old permanent medical file — by the time this gets implemented, we might have medical record chips implanted for easy data access — and after a certain number of demerits, certain treatments could be declared to have been waived by failure to participate in life sustaining excercise. You only get a double bypass, instead of the triple bypass, if you skip 5 workout sessions. 😉
    Of course, some people’s genetic code makes the predisposed to have high cholesterol and other problems, so personal trainers could be assigned to make these people run a little longer and harder to clear out the pipes. Instead of a 30 minute physical training session, these people would have to work out for 2 hours a day. Maybe in the morning and evening.
    We’d be fit.
    Healthcare costs would go down.
    Retired gym teachers would have something to do.
    And, the terrorists would realize American’s were flabby weaklings.
    If we don’t adopt this plan immediately, the “terror within” will win its battle to destroy American society as we know it.

    So, we’ve found a new enemy: obesity.
    Two years ago, the government discovered that the targets of previous crusades—booze, sex, guns, and cigarettes—were killing a smaller percentage of Americans than they used to.
    The one thing you’re not allowed to do in a culture war is win it, so we searched the mortality data for the next big menace.
    The answer was as plain as the other chin on your face. Obesity, federal officials told us, would soon surpass tobacco as the chief cause of preventable death. They compared it to the Black Death and the Asian tsunami. They sent a team of “disease detectives” to West Virginia to investigate an obesity outbreak.
    Last month, the surgeon general called obesity “the terror within” and said it would “dwarf 9-11.”

    Source: Slate, Junk Food Jihad.

  29. Chris!
    I would not be surprised if, on an insurance form, we will one day be asked to write down how much exercise we take a day. If we do not have a verifiable exercise routine, our rates will go up.
    We know physical activity is key to a good life — so why do so few of us bother to exercise at all? Are we all lazy Americans? Have we wrapped ourselves in the American flag making laziness “freedom of choice” instead of a requirement into remaining fit and free?
    When I was in elementary school there was a “Presidential” mandate that all children should meet a certain physical prowess based on age and gender.
    Each year we were tested: How many pull ups can you do, how fast can you run, how far can you jump and how many sit ups can you do?
    If you hit the top goal of the test, you were given a Presidential patch you could sew on your shirt or on a hat. I won them each year by a mile. The tests were basic and easy but few of us earned the patch.
    When I was in junior and senior high school we had a mandatory exercise class three times a week as part of our required program for graduation.
    The elementary school testing program was cut. Why? Because it was a bad idea? No. It cost too much federal money to implement and document.
    Jr./High schools no longer require PE as a graduation requirement. Why? Because it was a bad idea? No. It cost too much money to hire staff and supervisors.
    We have to make choices as a nation concerning the sustenance of a strong mind and body and too often we make a choice that is the cheapest, for the least long-term good, and with total disregard for overall health against our better interests.

  30. The point I was making is that some people are a danger to themselves and to others when they are in the kitchen so their only options are to have someone cook for them or to buy ready made food.
    I was in the kitchen once when someone cut themselves with a knife. The person threw the knife so they could apply pressure to their wound. The knife flew at someone else who burned themselves to avoid being hit by the knife. Needless to say we never asked the person to do anything in the kitchen again.
    For people like this or people perpetually on the go, there is really no choice when foods are banned.

  31. Hi David,
    We should all exercise more. I always try to take an evening stroll around the neigborhood.
    You’ll probably find me making a 1/2 mile loop around the ‘hood tonight after I get done with my all-you-can-eat “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” with bread-sticks and salad at the Olive Garden. 🙂
    I should probably check their website to see if there’s anything bad in all of those bowls of pasta I’m preparing to slam down tonight. 😉

  32. i understand the sentiment behind the whole trans fat ban thing. in my former life as a nurse i saw many many examples of the deleterious health effects of our society’s overall poor diet choices. (lots of bowel disease/cancer and diabetes too, not just cardiac disease). and i do think that as a society we need to wake up and start informing ourselves of healthy vs unhealthy food and lifestyle choices. thru my informal dialoguing with people i know that many have become label readers and so, just won’t purchase products which have no nutritional breakdown label. so … there is some movement albeit slow. and so maybe enforcing disclosure of nutritional information for all food producers might achieve the desired effect more than ‘banning’ would.
    regarding a ban … yes there is part of me that sees its value. however, i wonder then, why not ban nicotine and alcohol while we’re at it? likely governments have awareness of the unrealistic-ness (new word?) of this line of thinking, despite its merit. but — then, this makes me think of another manner in which to approach this … this attempt to influence society’s lifestyle/health choices. advertsing. its no longer legal for tobacco or alcohol companies to advertise. and … that seems fair enough, given their status as ‘poisons’ to humanity and society.
    does anyone think that transfats alone make junque food unhealthy? i don’t think so. i think, take the transfats away and going to mcdonalds or burger king is still an unhealthy choice. so, why ban transfats and continue to allow the promotion of processed and fast foods in the media? i think maybe we may be forgetting that food choices (ie north american’s fixation with fast food) have cultural roots. one only need visit continental europe to realize this fact. so, can we legislate culture?
    just a thought.
    re: vancouver piece. ok. i may seek your guidance regarding sort of focussing the perspective/topic of the piece.

  33. I am well aware that both smoking and second hand smoking can lead to death and to related health issues.
    I am also well aware that the rates of death from smoking and second hand smoking differ considerably from country to country – and in some cases from town to town.
    ” Let’s look at Japan. As we have seen, Japan is practically tied with Hungary for the highest rate of cigarette consumption in the world. It turns out, however, that the male LCDR in Japan is 0.5%. That’s approximately one-fifth the rate in Hungary; approximately one-third the U.S. rate. The LCDR for females in Japan is also astonishingly low, 0.2%.
    Furthermore, although they have the highest smoking rate of any major nation, the Japanese are remarkably healthy! At birth, a Japanese male has a whopping life expectancy of 75 years (as opposed to 72 in the U.S.A.). Japanese girls, at birth, have a life expectancy of 80 years. Those are the highest life expectancies in the entire world.”
    I am sorry that you find any “foreign intellectual coyness” my part disappointing.

  34. I don’t think ‘policing’ works in any field of life – let alone eating.
    I had an extremely sweet tooth when I was little; my Mom brought a book from the local library (with pictures that said eating too many candies would make me look like a skeleton one day!!!) that spoke about the impact of eating sweet too much (half of them proved wrong later as per more advanced research) – but at that point the information were scary enough to make me stop eating those.
    Right now I eat many things which will scare any normal person off, but I eat those just because they don’t bother me – at least till date.
    I think ‘banning’ makes people more curious.

  35. Hi Chris!
    I agree exercise is paramount! They used to tell you 30 minutes of brisk walking three times a week was enough to keep you in good form. Then a year or two ago they said actually three 10 brisk walks were better because once you reach your peak heart rate it’s best to get there three times a day instead of just once! It’s a maddening process to try to stay on top of the scientific data!
    I still do a daily powerwalk of 30 minutes a day and I add the 10 minute spurts to cover myself.

  36. I wonder what exactly is the nutritional content of “Fear Factor” food?
    And, should we allow people to eat it at an amusement park as a way to entertain themselves?
    The health department doesn’t suggest eating bugs is a great thing to do.

    Six Flags Great America, in Illinois, is offering unlimited line-jumping privileges to customers who eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach.
    Though Lake County Health Department officials caution that consuming live roaches might increase risks of gastrointestinal illness, Six Flags is giving anyone who munches an entire 2-3 inch horned bug four passes to cut to the front of ride lines through October 29th.

    Source: Emil Steiner’s Washington Post blog.
    I routinely go to Lake Co., Illinois for work — maybe I’ll have to munch on some Madagascar hissing cockroaches for the fun of eating bugs when I’m over there sometime.

  37. Hiya velvet!
    I agree: Let’s ban junk food!
    It’s interesting how McDonald’s offers a McVeggie burger in limited locations. The Vegan/Vegetarian groups were up in arms that McDonalds was pretending to be healthy by offering a veggie burger! I found that outrage sad. It’s McDonalds. AT LEAST THEY HAVE A VEGGIE BURGER!
    When Burger King also offered a veggie burger version the “health nuts” were even more up in arms over the outrage.
    They are fast food outlets. They are at least offering a better and healthier alternative to their regular menu for those who wish to eat it –- though few do.
    You can use the contact form here to get in touch if you need more help or advice on your article! Yay! I love new authors!

  38. I think the consumption of fat does hurt other people.
    The consumption of fat, I believe, in the long term, raises the cost of health insurance.
    There are lots of steps inbetween eating fat and health insurance costing more but I think you can see how I get from one to the other. 🙂

  39. Hi Nicola!
    Sorry if “foreign intellectual coyness” was inappropriate. By “foreign” I meant “unfamiliar” and not “un-worldly” or “nation-restricted.”
    Your intellectual coyness, however, continues!
    You cite a URL called “In Defence of Smokers” and the addendum to that article is dated October 1996. In fact, the whole “book” is dated 1996. Do you really believe that is a scientific article that relates the current fact-of-mind?
    In fact, the expert author you cite isn’t certain if HIV causes AIDS. Read the Forward. Your author is either out-of-date or out-of-mind. I will let other minds make that decision.
    Here’s some more current information on the damage second hand smoke does and the results are borderless and international:
    From the BBC in 2002:

    A working group from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, examined all of the major studies looking at smoking and cancer.
    After a five-day meeting in Lyons, France, this week, they suggested non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke are between 20% and 30% more likely to develop lung
    The experts also found cancers of the stomach, liver, uterus, cervix, kidney and myeloid leukaemia could be caused in part by smoking.
    From the American Lung Association, August 2006:

    Secondhand smoke, also know as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. It is involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers, lingers in the air hours after cigarettes have been extinguished and can cause or exacerbate a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma.
    Secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700-69,600 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year.
    From Cancer.Org in 2006:

    When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke it is called involuntary smoking or passive smoking. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke absorb nicotine and other compounds just as smokers do. The greater the exposure to secondhand smoke, the greater the level of these harmful compounds in your body.
    Why Is It a Problem?
    Secondhand smoke is classified as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization.
    Those are the Top 3 hits from Google. Here are the rest:

  40. Katha —
    You really believe “policing” does not work? What then, is the role of a local health department or Department of Public Health or Poison Center or a Center for Bioterrorism or even the local truant officer? They’re all charged with correcting bad behavior and protecting the public welfare!

  41. Chris!
    Open your mouth and drop the cockroach!

    It is believed that the cockroach may be a reservoir for a range of bacteria including salmonella, staphylococcus and streptococcus. The cockroach can also harbour viruses such as the polio virus.
    Like the household fly, the cockroach will eat virtually anything ranging from food spills on a kitchen floor to faecal matter. Ingested bacteria can survive in the cockroach’s digestive system, sometimes for months or even years, and are passed in its droppings. It is thought that disease is then transmitted to humans when humans eat cockroach droppings, perhaps on contaminated food.

  42. Gordon —
    I get it — it is simple cause-and-effect — we can’t deny the relationship between bad fats and unhealthy bodies any longer.
    Not all fat is bad!
    Eat the Good Fats!
    Eat lots of nuts!
    Drink lots of olive oil!
    Drink lots of flax oil!
    Eat an avocado!

  43. “Sugar linked with mental problems in Norway study:”

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Oslo teens who drank the most sugary soft drinks also had more mental health problems such as hyperactivity and distress, Norwegian researchers reported on Thursday.
    Their study of more than 5,000 Norwegian 15- and 16-year-olds showed a clear and direct association between soft drink intake and hyperactivity, and a more complex link with other mental and behavioral disorders.

  44. I am a victim of bedbugs…a communicable bug that it spreading like a wildfire in a drought..exterminators are charging thousands of dollars..with a 30 day guarantee for a bug that can live one year without a blood meal..the City of New York is complicit in the spread of this vampire date city owned shelters are teeming with them and there are no laws in discarding bedbug infested furniture..they suck blood, cause incredible anxiety,allergic reactions..possible spread of hepB..yet there are no laws..However..there are now laws legislating the use of synthetic trans fats…Something is grossly out of proportion..don’t go to any second hand stores and don’t take any furniture off the street folks..but eat some Kentucky fried Chicken !!! Deb

  45. Hi deblynn and welcome to Urban Semiotic!
    You make an excellent point about bedbugs. Our exterminator in Jersey City told us horror stories about them creeping up from Florida over the next year and once they’re here, and once you have them, they never go away and they always bite and bother you.
    When I was a graduate student at Columbia a long while back we had bedbug infestations in the Columbia apartments. They were nasty even then and I’m sure they’re only stronger now.
    How are you dealing with your bedbugs? Do you spray? Do you own or rent?

  46. Thanks for the keen link, Nicola!
    The rumor is California will be next to ban all trans fats! It’s a wonderful move!
    Trans fats are wholly indefensible from any angle so the food producers are now finally forced to get on the healthier body bandwagon!

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