Label, not ban, trans fats

Instead of making business and dietary decisions for its residents, Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils should require dining establishments to post nutrition information.

The Twin Cities may soon join New York City in banning trans fats in area restaurants and eateries. Though the St. Paul and Minneapolis city councils have not yet laid out ban specifics, both are also drafting ordinances that would require dining establishments to post calorie labels on their menus âÄî a much more reasonable policy than an outright ban. Trans fats are terribly unhealthy. They increase so-called bad LDL cholesterol and raise the risk of heart disease. But trans fats are cheap to use and create the texture and taste of many fast foods. WhatâÄôs more, trans fats extend shelf life and reduce refrigeration requirements, ultimately lowering costs to consumers. Restaurants with the resources to find suitable substitutes have responded to the shift in health attitudes. But smaller enterprises with shallower pockets may have trouble complying with a ban while maintaining the quality or the price of their goods. Though advocates claim alternatives are widely available, existing options like palm oil, butter and animal fats not only cost more, they also have the same caloric value as trans fats and often fail to recreate food taste or texture. Kentucky Fried Chicken voluntarily eliminated trans fats from most of its menu items in 2006, but the chain has been unable to find a suitable alternative for its flaky biscuits. Were a ban to go into effect, allegedly free citizens craving said biscuits would be left grumbling, as would KFC who just lost a sale. If Minneapolis and St. Paul truly want to be progressive on the dietary front, they should require restaurants to post nutrition information so customers have an easier time making their own nutrition decisions. An outright ban on trans fats leaves a bad taste in the mouth.