Stephanie Ebbert writes in the Globe today about an effort in the Town of Brookline to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants and schools in the town. New York City has done this, and there is also a bill pending in the Massachusetts legislature to do this statewide.
I can understand why a municipality would want to vote on this kind of matter for school meals. After all, the town has a responsibility for the quality of food served in its buildings, and students don't have a choice of cafeterias when classes are in session.
But I guess I have a bit of a libertarian streak when it comes to the restaurants. I agree towns should have authority over cleanliness and food protection standards in restaurants (and smoking, too), but I am bothered by the idea that they would legislate what we are allowed to eat. For one thing, is it really the town's business? For another, even if it is, how and where do you draw the line?
Every few years we are told about something that is bad for us based on the latest scientific studies. If I recall properly, I remember this happening at various times with white flour, eggs, avocados, nuts, coffee, processed meats, red meat, pork, fish, shellfish, and chicken. It often feels like this advice is rescinded, or even reversed, after more studies are done.
I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, Sleeper, in which the Woody Allen character wakes up after a 200-year hibernation. His attending scientist caretakers have the following dialogue:
Scientist 1: This morning for breakfast he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.
Scientist 2: [laughing] Oh, yes. Those were the charmed substances that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties.
Scientist 1: [astonished] You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?
Scientist 2: [shaking head gravely] Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Scientist 1: Incredible!