The Massachusetts Restaurant Association has announced that it will not oppose a statewide ban on trans fat, which now seems likely to pass:
The association's president, Peter G. Christie, told lawmakers that a statewide trans-fat ban would be preferable to a patchwork of local regulations. In May, Brookline became the first town in Massachusetts to embrace a trans-fat ban, although restaurants have until November of next year to comply. Boston and Cambridge have also considered bans.
"If it's decided that we need to take these things out of our foods in restaurants for health interests, we'll be willing to work with you," Christie told the Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health.
Individual restaurateurs, of course, have been free at any time to replace trans fats in their fried foods and baked goods with nonhydrogenated alternatives, and some have. The fact that others have not suggests they fear that doing so would give other restaurants a competitive advantage, whether because of lower costs, better taste, or both. As with smoking bans, a statewide rule that applies to all restaurants relieves this anxiety. I have no particular attachment to trans fat (or secondhand smoke), and if consumer demand drove restaurants to abandon it, that would be fine with me (just as it would be fine with me if every restaurant independently went smoke-free). What I object to is politicians' insistence on short-circuiting this process by imposing their preferences on all restaurants and, indirectly, on all consumers, including those who have no particular desire to avoid trans fat and those who actually prefer it.
[Thanks to Michael Graham (again) for the tip.]