Monday, December 11, 2006

Trans Fat Oils Prove Slippery

In today's NY Times the paper reports on an experiment that it conducted on alternatives to the use of trans fat. The experiment was done at the Institute of Culinary Education and the results were decidedly mixed (even though the paper's picture caption puts the best spin on the ban). In the first place, it was clear that baked goods would present the greatest challenge. The results of the baking experiments were less appealing in their presentation (they looked less appealing) even while the taste seemed to be the same.

Some of the cooking was done with coconut oil, which seemed to give good taste results but is considered to be more expensive. The issue of the length of the products shelf-life was also raised. What the experiment seems to indicate is that the issue of taste and the question of longevity-a key to the economics of the industry-makes the transition to non trans fat alternatives (not even bringing in the question of supply) problematic.

The question of cost, which we have raised before, also may have a differential impact on the city's smaller neighborhood eateries. Given the amount of enforcement that the DOH does, the cost issue should have been more thoroughly vetted. The fact that it wasn't is further evidence of the lack of thoroughness in the Board of Health's process.

All of which seems to strengthen the case to throw this issue, along with the menu labeling one, into the city council for review. While the Board of Health has little concern about the economic impacts, the legislature should be in a position to raise this key variable and factor it in to any new regulatory initiative.