Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Why Must Transition from Trans Fats Wait until 2018?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Why Must Transition from Trans Fats Wait until 2018?

Article excerpt

Byline: Zorba Paster

Thank goodness we have trans fats. What a wonderful invention they are. We can take vegetable oil and, through a simple manufacturing process, make it solid. Instead of all that messy oil, we can have a nice white gel to fry our potatoes, make our pies and bake our cakes.

And, gosh and golly, when we buy industry-made muffins and cookies, they'll last forever. Just think of it - buy it now and use it next year. It never goes rancid. I bet it would last through the next millennium if we put it into a time capsule.

And we all know trans fats are good for us - much better than butter. That dairy product is likely to clog arteries and kill us, so bring on the Crisco, I say. What a great new world we live in.

Now, I know that was a bit of an overstatement. I take that back:

That was A LOT of an overstatement. But that was the thinking when trans fats were first introduced in the early 1900s. We thought they were the cat's meow.

When you harken back to that time, the predominant method of cooking used lard and beef fat. Butter was the expensive stuff saved for your toast or for a special treat. People, my mom was one of those who bought in on trans fats - even fried eggs in the stuff.

Trans fats don't deteriorate at room air temperature, ergo their long shelf life. They really took off when butter was rationed during World War II. When I was a kid, butter became known as the "high-priced spread."

In the 1950s, industrial food companies made oleo (the original name for margarine) and flavored and colored it so it looked like butter and tasted rather similar - at least to the non-Wisconsinite palate, that is.

When I first came to Wisconsin to go to UW-Madison, there were lots of stores on the Illinois-Wisconsin border selling "colored oleo" because Wisconsin had laws against coloring margarine. You had to buy it as a grey-white glob with a packet of yellow food coloring and squeeze this yellow dye into the glob to make it look like something you'd maybe like to spread on your bread.

You can imagine how happy the margarine industry was when that law went away (and how unhappy the dairy farmers were). …

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