Trans Fats: An Uncharacteristic Assault on Corporations

I’m sitting in Wendy’s the other day, and I notice that the fries are different.  This disturbs me, and perhaps I will write about it in the future, but today I want to tell you about what I saw below the fries.  On the place mat they wrote this little ditty about how the new fries come from Russet potatoes and they are sprinkled with sea salt.  Also on the mat is a section boasting about how the fries contain no trans fats.  Clearly, I thought, Wendy’s is trying to appear healthier.

But wait, Wendy’s isn’t healthy.  What’s going on here?

I’ve noticed that trans fats have taken center stage in our nation’s health debate this past year.  There was talk about banning salt in restaurants, but once people remembered that salt is an essential part of good tasting food they let it go.  At least for now.  San Francisco also passed legislation to ban the Happy Meal.  You’ll remember a few years back McDonald’s was under pressure when a few fat people tried to sue them.  So they added nutrition facts and got rid of the Super Size.  Wendy’s also got rid of the Biggie Size.  But once again, trans fats are on the chopping block today, and I have a hunch that the big food corporations are eating it up.

Here’s my theory.  Trans fats have been identified as extremely unhealthy and unnatural.  They offer no benefits to our bodies, and exist only to make food taste better.  This makes trans fats the enemy.  Very good.  Once this enemy was identified by the public and the media it had to be addressed by the big food providers.  Now, during all of this there was an ever growing awareness of the obesity epidemic in America.  About 1 in 3 children are obese, and adults are even worse.  So, food corporations had no choice but to respond to America’s increased demand for healthier fare.  Some offered a baked alternative.  Some offered a low calorie alternative.  Some offered a low sugar alternative.  And Some offered a low carb alternative.  They made these small steps, but they continued to push the foods that made them wealthy.  In order to continue the pressure to consume the same unhealthy foods, these corporations needed a distraction.  They needed a way to convince the public that the old standbys were still good to eat.  Trans fats provided the perfect scapegoat.

If the food never had trans fats, you can now boast Zero Grams Trans Fat!!!

If the food used to have some trans fats, you can boast Now with Zero Grams Trans Fat!!!

Do you see what I’m saying?  This is a distraction.  You read that something has no trans fat and you think, this is healthier.  It still has 50 grams of fat and 1500 calories, but there are no trans fats.  That means there is less fat.  That means it is healthier, or at least relatively healthy.  And that is my main point.  By demonizing trans fats, corporations can make themselves and their food look better without having to sacrifice anything.

(I’m not trying to say that big corporations are pure evil.  All I’m saying is that they work really hard to turn a profit, and they’ll use whatever they can to achieve that end.  Certainly, trickery is one of their tools.  So, if you’re going to eat this food, make sure you’re eating it for the right reason; it tastes incredible.)



One comment

  1. Dan W. · December 6, 2010

    They did the same thing with HFCS to great effect!

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