by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Trans fats are not the healthiest thing you can eat, which is why nutritionists have been warning Americans about them for years. In response, food manufacturers have reduced their use of trans fats and consumers have made efforts to avoid them, with the result that between 2003 and 2012, Americans’ average daily trans-fat consumption dropped from 4.6 grams to 1 gram, well below the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 2 grams. Individuals freely making choices, sellers responding to market forces: It’s a libertarian’s dream — which means a regulator’s nightmare. So of course the Food and Drug Administration has announced an absolute ban on trans fats, to take effect in three years. To be sure, trans fats can be harmful in large amounts, but it isn’t like you’re eating strychnine, and the things that replace them, such as palm oil, are hardly any better and sometimes affect the taste or consistency of the product. But when regulation is your job, everything looks like a problem.
And if your only tool is a government hammer, everything looks like a nail.