A thought experiment on FDA involvement in food additives

I’d like you to consider a thought experiment:

Imagine there was a food additive that was thought to reduce the risk of breast cancer in some women. It also made food last longer and taste better. But then it turned out that a growing body of evidence showed that it actually increased the risk of breast cancer. Over time, many organizations started to voluntarily remove the additive from foods, but it still existed. And today, there would be few people who disputed that this additive increased the risk of developing breast cancer.

Do you think there would be anyone defending this additive’s use in food? Can you imagine anyone arguing that women could “just avoid it if they wanted to”? Can you imagine the outrage if they allowed this to be a major additive in the food they serve children in school lunches?

I ask, because if you changed “breast cancer” to “heart disease” (and “women” to “people”), I’ve just described the current situation with trans fats. They’re being banned, but I keep getting tweets and emails from people who think this is government over-reach.

I don’t know why heart disease gets a pass in this country. I really do believe that if trans fats were a carcinogen, we wouldn’t be having a debate. They’d be gone. But because they only cause “heart disease”, they’re a “lifestyle choice” that some people will fight for.

The trans fats used in processed foods are created in a lab. They’re not natural, they’re not required, and they increase the risk of heart disease significantly. Don’t talk to me about banning nutrients next. Those are needed by the body. Their problem is one of moderation, and I’ve been against the soda ban from the start. This is different.

For the record, heart attacks kill six times as many women as breast cancer in the US each year. Heart attacks kill a ton of men as well. In fact, more people die of heart disease each year than from all cancers combined.

@aaronecarroll

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