Wal-Mart announces their delis will no longer use trans-fats in preparation of food.
That pretty much leaves McDonalds as the last bastion of hydrogenation.
While pretty much every other fast food joint has foresworn the carcinogenic, unhealthy oils, McDonalds makes perpetual excuses and puts off the day that they too will stop using hydrogenated oils in their foods.
I find the debate over New York City's ban on trans-fats to be amusing. One side says "first it was seatbelts, then secondhand smoke and now fatty foods? What kind of nanny state is this?" The other side says obesity is a "huge" problem, and we need to act to save people from themselves.
Not much mention is made of the real financial cost to society vis a vis the tremendous amount of tax dollars that are spent caring for people whose behaviors have turned them into a walking cardiac-in-waiting. And when it comes to government intervention and the basic test of a "compelling state interest" in legislating, clearly there is one here. Billions of tax dollars go into caring for people who eat this stuff anyway - just like smokers keep on smoking.
Reading this got me thinking about lawsuits.
First, there's the smokers' suits against the tobacco companies. People who smoked and developed lung cancer or emphysema sued the tobacco companies because they "misled" the public about the nature of their products. In other words, the people needed the cigarette companies to tell them that smoking was bad for them. The hacking cough was not, apparently, enough on its own. If only Altria had said "smoking is dangerous", they would have stopped immediately.
Some of these suits were successful, some were not. In my mind it's absurd that an individual could hold a tobacco company liable for such a thing. Anybody who smokes knows it's bad for you, no matter what a tobacco ad says.
On the other hand, the lawsuits brought by the states were different. They sought compensation from the tobacco companies, who made billions selling products they clearly knew (as evidence showed overwhelmingly) we harmful - and got it. In my mind, the states are absolutely entitled to collect on the billions they laid out taking care of sick smokers.
Now consider junk food.
McDonalds more or less stands alone in a crowd of fast food peddlers who have admitted there is a health cost associated with using hydrogenated oils. The jury is in on the issue. They clog arteries, cause colo-rectal cancer, heart problems, circulatory problems and so on, and the FDA admits that there is no amount it considers "safe" for comsumption.
Despite this, when you want fries with that, they are selling you a substance they know full well to be poison.
Because McDonalds is clearly aware of the danger of trans-fats, and continues to sell them despite that knowledge, that they expose themselves to all kinds of lawsuits by both individuals and the states. And with a winning example to fashion a lawsuit on (the tobacco companies), there's a strong possibilty that some of the people and all of the states would win. Some interest groups have brough suits against KFC and McDonalds for loosely related causes, but my bet is that the big money is going to happen with these kinds of suits.
I wonder if they're thinking about this at Burger College.