Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
Dear Chicago Restaurantgoer: Ald. Ed Burke (14th) proposed last July that the Chicago City Council ban restaurants from serving foods made with vegetable oils containing trans fats. The proposal follows New York City's new ban on trans fats. The alarm is directly traceable to "research" by Harvard University's Alberto Ascherio and Walter Willett, the promoters-in-chief of trans fat fear.
You might consider the implications of the council dictating what you may eat based on the sort of "research" published by the team known as Ascherio-Willett. So let's examine the potential consequences of relying on their other research that is similar in nature and quality to their trans fats work.
Also on the hit list
New York tried to bolster it case for banning trans fats by playing on popular misconceptions about saturated fat. Its ban notice states that, "Trans fat appears even worse than saturated fat."
As it turns out, the public's 30-year-long fear of saturated fat has no scientific basis. It's appalling that the use of the now-debunked saturated myth helped propagate the new trans fat myth.
Coffee and pizza as remedies
Since not all Ascherio-Willett research is about banning foods -- I suppose even they realize that at some point the public will tire of being denied choice -- Burke might want to consider requiring restaurant patrons to order caffeinated coffee. One Ascherio-Willett study reported that drinking six-plus cups of coffee per day reduced type 2 diabetes risk in men by a statistically significant 54 percent (Annals of Internal Medicine, Jan. 6, 2004).
Daily consumption of pizza by men could also be required. Ascherio-Willett reported that consuming 10 or more servings of pizza per week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by one-third (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, December 1995).
It's not that Ascherio-Willett have proven that coffee or pizza prevent disease -- far from it -- but Burke might appreciate their distraction potential. Ancient Roman emperors distracted citizens with bread and circuses while taking away their freedoms. The City Council could similarly distract Chicagoans with mandatory coffee and pizza for everyone as it dismantles consumer food choice.
Finally, why is Burke's proposed trans fat ban limited to restaurants? What about grocery stores and convenience shops? If trans fats are so bad, why should anyone be able to purchase food in a store that is too dangerous to be served in a restaurant?
Maybe someone should ask Ald. Burke if he really wants to hitch his career to the junk science bandwagon.