суббота, 15 сентября 2012 г.

Time for city to take trans fats off the menu - Chicago Sun-Times

Recent news events have presented a huge conundrum for the FatNag. One thing the Nag never wants to do is recommend that Chicagoape New York City. Unfortunately, she has learned that Gotham Cityhas beaten the Second City to the punch on an issue that is close toher heart.

Earlier this month the New York City Board of Health banned theuse of trans fats in all city restaurants by July 2008. So the Nag,in all of her Fat Nag glory, must urge that Chicago follow in thefootsteps of New York and ban a growing health threat: trans fats.

Trans fats are hydrogenated cooking oils used to prepare treatslike fried chicken, cheeseburgers and french fries. The stuff clogsyour arteries and pumps up your 'bad' cholesterol. They are a majorfactor in heart disease and other maladies. According toconservative estimates from the Harvard University School of PublicHealth, banning trans fats could prevent 30,000 premature deathsfrom heart disease every year.

Trans fats butter up a restaurant's bottom line, fueling cheapercooking oils and longer shelf life for food. Herein lies anotherconundrum: The customer's well-being is being sacrificed for arestaurant's profit. That's why the government should step in. Ifgovernment regulations can benefit public health for a small price,why not do it? There's an endless list of all the things governmentdoes for us that don't benefit us, yet cost us dearly.

New York City gets it. So does Chicago Ald. Ed Burke (14th). InJune Burke proposed a trans fat ban in all Chicago restaurants.After the restaurants howled, he narrowed it to focusing on largechains that generate at least $20 million in annual gross sales, andto phase out trans fats over two years.

Colleen McShane, president of the Illinois RestaurantAssociation, recently told the Sun-Times that Burke's plan should bevoluntary. She rejects what she calls 'the need for this over-regulation of trans fat,' and notes that some restaurant chainsalready are cutting back on trans fats.

Not good enough, the Fat Nag says. Why not pick the low-hangingfruit?

She also says 'fiddlesticks' to the naysayer, libertarian types -- like her friend Gil Ross, a personal injury lawyer, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, Harley biker and all-around Grand Pooh Bah. Shouldthe government protect public health by banning trans fats?

'It's not the role of government to be paternalistic,' Rossranted recently over his martini-and-spinach dinner at a Lake Viewrestaurant. Especially the City Council. 'I don't want themmicromanaging my life and micromanaging businesses. If therestaurant chooses to cook with trans fats, they are welcome toadvertise. Let the marketplace decide.'

Yeah, right. The marketplace's decision will always be to takethe money and run.

Dr. Michele Walker sympathizes with the libertarian view. Still,at the ACCESS community health center in Bronzeville, she toilsdaily to heal the wreckage of unhealthy eating. The familypractitioner sees as many as 20 patients a day, many suffering fromobesity, diabetes and heart disease.

'Trans fats are bad for us,' she told the Fat Nag last week.'They're bad.' Walker, who lives on the Far South Side, says herneighborhood is saturated with fast-food restaurants. She strugglesto get her patients to embrace the complexities of health demonslike trans fats, she said. 'I can't even get my patients to take theskin off of their chicken.'

Fast-food joints are ubiquitous in African-American communities,she adds. 'They are the places we are going to run to. . . . Ifsomeone can walk into a McDonald's and there are no trans fats, itmight prolong their lives.'

The fat is indeed killing us. Burke's bill will save black lives.The Fat Nag applauds Burke, the city's Don Quixote of Health. Shejust wishes his legislation was tougher.

One final conundrum: It is ironic that it is Ald. Ed Burke who isleading this charge. This is the same Ed Burke who is a pariah tomany in Chicago's black community. The same Ed Burke who reveled inthe role of archenemy to the late Mayor Harold Washington. The sameBurke whom black people despise for adopting 'Baby T,' a black childin peril, and raising him right.

Maybe this leopard has changed his spots.

e-mail: LauraSWashington@aol.com