The Pennsylvania Trans Fat Task Force was set up to devise a strategy to reduce the state’s consumption of trans fat, and concluded that a public education program combined with industry encouragement to make the switch could be more effective than an outright ban.
CSPI has pointed to examples including New York City and the state of California, where trans fat bans are already in place, and has argued that manufacturers and restaurants can “easily replace artificial fat”, adding that many already have. The organization favors a gradual phasing-out of trans fat, supported by legislation requiring manufacturers to comply.
However, task force chairman Peter Bordi said: “Healthier alternatives to artificial trans fat continue to be developed, but legislation imposing deadlines for eliminating them may force restaurants and food companies to switch to equally unhealthy alternatives just to meet the deadline.”
In response, CSPI has said that most reformulated foods are often lower in saturated fat as well, and said that even if manufacturers replace trans fat with 100 percent saturated fat, it was still likely to be an improvement, “albeit a small one”.
Task force chairman Bordi said: “There are other choices that could be more harmful from a health perspective, so you need to be aware of the alternatives. This is one of those rare opportunities to utilize a proactive, educational approach to resolving an issue.”
The group also acknowledged that manufacturers were already working to replace trans fats in foods, and researchers were already working to find alternative sources, so argued that a mandatory ban would be going too far.
CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said: “The report of this task force might have been credible were it written ten years ago, when the science on trans fat was less certain and the supplies of alternative oils less abundant, but it ignores the example of New York City, whose prohibition on using partially hydrogenated oils has proven so successful.”
CSPI also challenged the objectivity of the panel, which included a large number of representatives from the food industry as well as researchers, health advocates and government employees.
Jacobson said: “Though several government employees were on the panel, its recommendations almost certainly would have been supportive of public health had bakeries, restaurant lobbyists, and other food industry officials not been so overly represented.”
The task force reviewed the scientific information available on the detrimental health effects of consuming trans fats and documented steps already being taken by industry to reduce its use.