Colorado considering trans-fat ban in schools

I hope they follow through:

The nation’s leanest state is taking aim at junk food in school cafeterias as it considers the nation’s toughest school trans-fat ban.

A Colorado House committee was scheduled to hear a bill Thursday to forbid any trans-fat in school food — not just the food served through regular cafeteria lunches.

That would mean vending machines, after-school bake sales and popular “a la carte” items on lunch lines such as ice creams or pizza would have to be produced without artery-clogging trans fats.

This would constitute one of the broadest bans in the nation. I fully support it. There is no reason we should be practically trying to produce unhealthy children. It isn’t merely the improvement of their minds that should be our concern.

Colorado has a decent track history of creating good public healthy policies. It also is usually in the top ten in income, so when that is coupled with its expansive outdoor recreational options, the results are generally positive. For instance, as the article states, Colorado is the “leanest” state in the Union. It still has an incredible 19% obesity rate, but this is pretty decent by American standards. (When looking at other health factors, New England tends to dominate the positive ranks.)

I hope to see more aggressive steps by Colorado in the future. It isn’t a polarized state in the eyes of the nation like a Mississippi or a California is, so it has a real chance to be a leader in health.

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3 Responses

  1. After school bake sales?

    I’m surprised you don’t see the problem here. Everyone already has an exaggerated fear of trans fats and are less likely to use them. Nutritional science is still somewhat primitive and its entirely possible the marginal differences in trans fats over other fats will be overturned in the future. In that scenario we can expect the laws to remain in place for a long time afterwards, like the ethanol program.

  2. Trans fats have a different structure to them than other fatty acids. Imagine you have an assortment of pipes. You’ll be able to pretty easily fit them together, even if some are wavy or slightly different. But if you have a bunch of elbows in those pipes, you aren’t going to be able to sort them so neatly. That’s what happens with trans fats by virtue of them being unsaturated fats, though less exaggerated than I’ve described. (Theoretically, this should be worse in cis-forms of fatty acids – my description is hardly an exaggeration there – but the body appears to be able to break those down better due to not yet fully understood reasons.)

    The costs associated with assuring the fatty acids in foods are of the saturated variety are minimal. The real issue comes with the fact that unsaturated fatty acids preserve food better. Given the relatively constant rate of consumption in schools, preservation is more an issue for grocers and the like than anyone.

    I do see an issue with after-school bake sales, though Supreme Court rulings indicate to me there is no legal problem. (See Morse v. Frederick.) However, the only way any school can enforce such a ban is if the baked goods or other items are being made in a school kitchen. It simply isn’t possible in any practical way to inspect the foods made by students and parents at home. It’s a moot issue.

  3. At some point I had read that a school, maybe in Mass, had prohibited kids from bring their own lunch. Parents were rightfully up in arms about it, but the district backed the principle.

    Evil bitch.

    More on the topic, provided there is no crazy cost increase, and provided the food does not end up being less palatable, I couldn’t care less.

    Cost is an issue, because money suffers from scarcity, though I doubt there is much of a difference from merely ditching trans fats.

    More importantly, if the food tastes like crap, kids won’t eat it. For the ones who get most of their meals at school, that could be a big issue, especially when those kids are likely to eat worse crap after school. So if the change makes the food more yucky, there would be no benefit to banning trans fats, better kids eat trans fats than a steady diet of potato chips and Twinkies after declining school food.

    I don’t have any evidence of excessive costs or of taste or texture issues, and I’m not going to search for any, I’m just mentioning the two questions I would want answered if it were up to me. And I would ban little, at least for high school kids, if they aren’t old enough at that point to make responsible eating choices, than we have bigger problems than trans fats and the end of the Mayan calendar.

    And to clarify one of my points, I don’t care if kids make less favorable choices as long as they are mentally competent and have access to the data they need. In other words, as long as they know what the good and bad choices are, I don’t care which one they choose.

    Anyway think it’s more important to educate them than regulate what they eat, because once they get out of high school and the hand feeding stops, these kids are most likely going to be just as ignorant of what they are eating.

    I really didn’t intend this to be this long.

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