Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Trans fats

Please bear in mind, gentle reader, that I write essays for a blog.  These essays are not news.  I don't compete on timeliness. I compete on content.

Why trans fats? Why now?

I am the only person responsible for what goes into my mouth.

The Food and Drug Administration recently floated a proposal to ban "trans fats".  This baffles me.  My body cannot tell the difference between a stearic acid molecule that originated in a cow's body, atop a palm tree, from a soybean or synthesized across a powdered nickel catalyst.  Stearic acid is stearic acid.

So, are the people at the FDA stoopid, political hacks or economic reconstructionists?  Perhaps "or" is the wrong choice of words.  Maybe I should have used the word "and".


I once had a boss named Ron who made Machiavelli look like a piker.  His directions were veiled, obscure and often contradictory.  His instructions made sense only after you drilled through the micro-tactical-detail and looked at his long term strategic intent.  After you noodled out his long term goals his instructions became transparent and one could operate with more autonomy.  I like to think that we worked well together.

My Pavlovian reaction, when I encounter directions that are veiled, obscure and often contradictory, is to speculate regarding long term, strategic intent.

Who benefits?

So who benefits from a ban on trans fats?  Certainly not me.

One of the more cynical views is that perhaps the Indonesian Oil Palm industry or Montsanto upped the ante to the regulatory "protection racket" and simply out-bid ADM (ADM will be used generically.  There are several suppliers of trans fats.)

Another cynical view is that ADM is looking to dump the cost structure of hydrogenation plants.  They can now achieve acceptable shelf life and product sensory characteristics with palm oils and soybean oil.

Obscure factoid: soybeans have been around for a long time but the oil quickly went rancid.  They did not explode as a US crop until after genetics were integrated into the seedstocks that yielded a lipid profile that had acceptable shelf life.  There is vast amounts of data (much in the public domain) regarding soybean genetics/lipid profiles.  This is where Montsanto comes into play; they are the US's largest supplier of agricultural seed genetics.

The cynic would have ADM looking for a graceful way to dump a high cost segment of their business.  If they can score political points for themselves and their political puppets while doing it...well, they have a fiduciary obligation to orchestrate such theater.

In the end, the cynicism is non-value added.  I am the only person responsible for what I put into my mouth.  I am already a passive victim if I expect the FDA to protect me from "evil" donuts and potato chips.

Sidebar:  One thing I learned from this Administration is that it is impossible to over saturate an audience with repetition.  "If you like your..."  It creates credulous state of mind because the listener/reader subconsciously thinks "It must be true because I know I have heard that before."

Let me know if my new habit of book-ending the take-home makes you nauseous and I will stop.

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