Jul 012015

The following is the text of a letter I sent to the NY Times questioning the FDA’s decision to ban Trans fats.  Whether or not one regards it as a good idea, the decision was based on a small amount of scientific evidence of recent vintage pointing to (optimistically) a reduction of 20K heart attacks per year.  On the other hand, there is a great deal of evidence that smoking directly causes 480K deaths per year.   The FDA’s priorities seem illogical.   Here is the letter itself.  It was not selected for publication:

To the Editor:

Re “F.D.A. Sets 2018 Deadline to Rid Foods of Trans Fats” by Sabrina Tavernise (June 16, 2015)

Whatever one’s opinion of banning Trans fats, the FDA’s priorities in doing so are puzzling.  According to the CDC, cigarette smoke is directly responsible for over 480,000 American deaths each year.  This is a far higher and more clearly attributable mortality rate than that from Trans fats.   If the FDA has the authority to ban Trans fats, then surely it has the authority to ban tobacco products.  If banning a ubiquitous component of our foods is deemed expedient, then surely it is even more expedient to ban a substance that lacks even a nominal claim to utility.    A nationwide prohibition against tobacco products is an obvious measure that would save at least 20 times as many American lives as the ban on Trans fats, yet nary a word from the FDA.