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Fight stupid laws - Trans Fats edition.

If you haven't seen, Baltimore City is getting ready to pass a ban on trans fats. The City’s proposed trans-fat ban is insipid for a couple of reasons.

First, it is absolutely not City government’s place to determine your diet. The ban forbids restaurants from using “vegetable shortening, margarine or any kind of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”. The City is taking your right to decide how your breakfast is cooked. Obviously, the City knows more about your heart health than you and your doctor.

Second, the bill is a rush job. The proposed ordinance is a half-baked jumble of holes, scare tactics and buzz words. Think for a second: if this bill was proposed ten years ago, what horror-of-the-day would have been on the list to ban? Eggs? Pork? Whole milk? In a year or two, when the failures of this bill become apparent, do you think they will rescind the law, or try to “fix” it with more restrictive language and harsh penalties?

Most importantly, the ban will have a disparate impact on the poorest neighborhoods and smallest restaurants. As stated in The Sun article, some restaurants are moving away from trans fats right now, but these are the ones with the most means to do so - chains and large shops.

This is not the case in small restaurants or corner stores. Many smaller businesses round out their menus with prepared appetizers and desserts. You may go to the corner bar for their fantastic homemade crab soup, but they make a lot of their revenue off of the Sysco buffalo wings or Schwan's cheesecake. These prepared items will only become more expensive, if they’re allowed into the City at all. Further, the onus of record keeping, even for foods without nutrition information, is placed solely on the restaurant owner.

All of this is going to come down very hard on the small restaurants, cutting into an already narrow margin of survival. So, while expensive restaurants in the Harbor support the ban, affordable places in Waverly, Highlandtown or Remington are just going to be driven into the ground.

Don’t let garbage like this pass. City government doesn’t have the wits to keep the buses safe and the roads fixed. It really does not have the sense to determine your diet or the fate of your favorite restaurant.

Write to the city council at: 100 N. Holliday Street, Suite 400 Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Call the city council at: 410-396-4804
Fax the city council at: 410-539-0647

Write The Sun at: letters@baltsun.com
Fax The Sun at: 410-332-6977

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
electroboy_esq
Mar. 5th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
And what the hell do you put on your toast if you're a vegetarian?
schmedgar
Mar. 5th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
There are options like Earth Balance which is a trans-fat free butter substitute.
schmedgar
Mar. 5th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
Given that a number of other cities have already banned trans fats, I'm wondering if you have any data that shows the impact such a ban has had on the smaller establishments that you say will suffer?
electroboy_esq
Mar. 5th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
It's irrelevant that other cities have banned transfats. It's a personal choice to consume them. Plenty of things are bad for you like natural saturated fats, sugar and not exercising, but it's none of the city's business whether or not I choose to engage in those behaviors. That said, I have no problem with requiring restaurants to notify people that they use transfats.

schmedgar
Mar. 6th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
It's relevant if it's used as part of the argument.

If the entire argument had been "it's none of their business" I woldn'thave asked for data.
electroboy_esq
Mar. 6th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC)
Sometimes there is more than one argument for not doing something. It's important to consider them all.
grandhoser
Mar. 5th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
Numbers are not yet available for New York and Philadelphia, because both are still in their 18 month change over periods (bills approved Dec 2006, Feb 2007 respectively). But early reports suggest 35% increase in costs and soggy fries. All of that has to be absorbed by the restaurant as folks will balk at paying too much for some meals.

Here are two [1, 2] examples of testimony from the New York debate that outlines a lot of the costs that are more extensive than just the price of fryer oil.

The State of Maryland recognized the cost difference in a DHMH Report. "For frying purposes the trans fat free alternatives have a slightly higher cost than trans fat containing oils. Trans fat free shortenings and margarines for baking purposes may be more expensive as they become available due to processing changes."

Dunkin Donuts change adds about a penny a donut or 3% to the cost. KFC and McDonalds admit to some increase in cost, but have not passed it on to the consumer.
schmedgar
Mar. 6th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
Interesting, thanks.

I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm sort of in favor of whatever it takes to get people to eat better.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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Dining in Baltimore

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