America. This country is about being able to make decisions. It’s the land of the free.
Still, the idea of free choice is in question, and at the center of it is another American idea.
Cupcakes at school birthday parties.
Trans fats are the reason. The fatty acid, which has been highly linked to heart disease – the top cause of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – was banned in Philadelphia and New York, and more places are looking to follow.
One would think that’s enough. If trans fats were banned, then cupcakes would be fine to consume.
Even after the removal of trans fats, people are still being told what they can and cannot eat.
Last month at a senior center in Mahopac, N.Y., for example, seven residents stood outside picketing because the center was refusing to allow the consumption of donuts and other desserts.
But it wasn’t just because they wanted their donuts. They wanted to be able to make their own choice.
“There is a place in everyone’s diet for cupcakes or donuts,” said Julie Rhule, a dietitian retained by Temple’s Dining Services. “One cupcake is not going to put you over the edge. Sweets have a place in your diet. It’s personal choice.”
She stressed moderation and balance in one’s personal diet. In other words, it’s not the government’s choice.
The government did ban cigarette smoking in public places recently, but smoking harms people who are not partaking in the action. If someone next to me is smoking, the smoke gets in my lungs. If someone next to me is eating a jelly donut, nothing happens to me. As long as he’s not dropping it on me.
Why should government care?
“They’ve been pushed to put out a public response,” Rhule said. “There are a lot of studies out there that link trans fat with cardiovascular disease.”
If trans fats are really that terrible, get rid of them. As long as they can be replaced without a significant impact.
If foods that many love are changed completely or are vanished, then people are losing their right to eat them. Eating unhealthy foods don’t hurt anyone other than the eater.
“It’s a responsibility that each person needs to take on,” Rhule added. “It’s unfortunate that regulations are coming in and trying to make that decision for us. Given the right resources and the knowledge, people can incorporate those foods they love into their diet.”
This is home to the cheesesteak.
Call me crazy, but I have enough faith in humans for them to decide how many cheesesteaks are too many. Cupcakes, too.
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.