Will Chicago Go Trans-Fat Free?

The New York Times reports that Chicago city council may consider a ban on the use of "trans-fats" in local restaurants.

Edward M. Burke, who has served on the Chicago City Council since 1969, when cooking oil was just cooking oil, is pressing his colleagues to make it illegal for restaurants to use oils that contain trans fats, which have been tied to a string of health problems, including clogged arteries and heart attacks.

If approved, nutrition experts say, the ban will be the first in a major city, following the lead of towns like Tiburon, Calif., just north of San Francisco, where restaurant owners have voluntarily given up the oils. In truth, while the proposal's prospects are uncertain, Chicago officials have been on a bit of a banning binge these days in what critics mock as City Hall's effort to micromanage residents' lives in mundane ways.

The aldermen voted in April to forbid restaurants to sell foie gras. They have weighed a proposal to force cabbies to dress better. And there is talk of an ordinance to outlaw smoking at the beach.

Even Mayor Richard M. Daley, who often promotes bicycle riding and who not long ago appointed a city health commissioner who announced he was creating health "report cards" for the mayor and the aldermen, has balked at a trans-fat prohibition as one rule too many.

"Is the City Council going to plan our menus?" Mayor Daley asked.

But Mr. Burke, pointing to increases in obesity, diabetes and heart disease, is unapologetic. He does not profess that better oils would suddenly make Chicago skinny but says that they would at least begin to alleviate some of the related coronary concerns.

"If it were just about adults, I would say, 'O.K., we should butt out,' " Mr. Burke said in an interview. "But youngsters are assuming diets that are unhealthy."

And if the City Council had agreed to simply steer clear of peoples' bad habits, said Mr. Burke, an influential alderman who long pushed to ban smoking in indoor public spaces, Chicago might never have passed the smoking ban that went into effect this year (it gives taverns and restaurants with bars until 2008 to comply). "We may be the last civilized city in the world to ban it," he said.

Under Mr. Burke's proposal, establishments that failed to remove "artificial trans fats" from their kitchens would be fined $200 to $1,000 a day. . . .

Faced with criticism, Mr. Burke said he was willing to consider changes to his proposal as it heads to a City Council committee, where its fate is anyone's guess. If mom-and-pop restaurants would be unfairly harmed, he said, perhaps he would agree to rewrite the legislation to single out only fast-food chains.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
Why stop there? Why not ban trans-fat from all products sold in Chicago supermarkets?

This nanny-state business is going too far.
7.18.2006 8:51pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
dormant commerce clause issue if I'm not mistaken.
7.18.2006 8:59pm
John (mail):
Come on, let's get real: trans fats eat into (sorry) the market for saturated fats, as in butchered meat, as in Chicago. It's like a ban on chewing gum competitors at (ahem) Wrigley Field.

Well, just kidding. I think.
7.18.2006 9:11pm
ras (mail):
One Fat to fill them all
One Fat to line them
One Fat to cast a pall
And in the darkness bind them
7.18.2006 9:22pm

dormant commerce clause issue if I'm not mistaken.

Nah. If you haven't figured it out by now, any claim of 'public good' trumps the Constitution.
7.18.2006 9:36pm
Cynicus Prime (mail) (www):
Chicago: the new San Francisco
7.18.2006 10:01pm
Cornellian (mail):
dormant commerce clause issue if I'm not mistaken.

Nah. If you haven't figured it out by now, any claim of 'public good' trumps the Constitution.

I look forward to seeing the evidence that the original understanding of the Commerce Clause would have excluded this measure from a state's police powers.
7.18.2006 10:08pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Your urge to rip into a comment seems to have kept you from noticing that I was responding to the previous comment's question, cornellian.
7.18.2006 10:53pm
John Dewey (mail):
If this is really a public health issue, then why would anyone _ever_ consider a small business exception. Last time I checked, small businesses were still businesses and if they want to compete with the big boys, it should be on the same playing field.
7.18.2006 10:56pm
The DCC argument is a loser.

Nevertheless, I am appalled as a Chicagoan that any such ordinance could even be proposed, let alone passed. First they came for the smokers, then they came for the peanut oil. Sweet Jeebus, please preserve us a few of our unhealthy pleasures.
7.19.2006 12:50am
But they took your handgun a long time ago. Chicago whose murder rate is ridiculous, the Mayor a mobster, where there is true segregation and back people still living in gettos of the Great Society politicians are going to ban fat in food. Somehow I am not surprised..
7.19.2006 1:25am
Bob Smith (mail):
When did Tiburon restaurants drop trans-fats? Didn't hear anything in the news. Not surprising, though, since Tiburon is as moonbat leftist as its neighbor and stinking rich to boot (median house price well above a million) so they won't care about higher restaurant prices (but it does help repel the riff-raff).
7.19.2006 1:42am
The Voice of Reason (mail):
Yes, ban trans-fats. And force kids to run and exercise in public school. And condition receipt of federal aid for schools or grants for students on a requirement of fitness and health (unless you're a cripple or have a demonstrable genetic problem). And raise taxes on larger sizes of clothing. No more free money for people jacking up public health costs.
7.19.2006 3:29am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
First they came for the...
7.19.2006 3:47am
Cornellian (mail):
Your urge to rip into a comment seems to have kept you from noticing that I was responding to the previous comment's question, cornellian.

I was ripping into the "public good" comment. I don't generally pay attention to who says what in the comments, it's too hard to keep track of that. That's why I generally avoid referring to anyone in my posts, I just quote the text I want to comment on and add my part.
7.19.2006 3:49am
The Chicago city council has 49 D's to 1 R with our beloved mayor looking like a voice of sanity and reason compared to his fellow democrats in most cases. They have banned smoking in restaurants and bars, handguns, foie gras (as dangerous as handguns IMHO),trans-fats (possibly) and have successfully banned Walmart and now possibly Target in their drive for a living wage ordinance. Target has put six new stores on hold and is threatening to leave the city entirely if this wage ordinance passes. I hope they follow through on their threats. I thought California had it bad.
7.19.2006 3:55am
The Voice of Reason (mail):
Hey man. Internalize the externalities. Get rid of the free riders. You want to eat fatty, sugary food and have a heart attack? Then pay for your own health costs when you do. Or, exercise and eat right and we can all have lower taxes and good health care when one of us gets sick not by our own doing.
7.19.2006 5:02am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Hey, man: nobody asked you to pay anybody's health care costs.

Except, of course, for the exact same sort of people who pass laws like the trans fat law, who think you should be required to do so.
7.19.2006 5:49am
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
"We may be the last civilized city in the world to ban [smoking]"

I'm happy to have smoking banned in indoor public accommodations, but the notion that any city that fails to do so is "uncivilized" is very funny. True civilization would come when people realize that their smoking aggravates others' breathing conditions and creates a bad odor. Smokers would voluntarily cease to perform publicly an action that creates significant problems for others and that is of limited benefit to the individual. Back when manners were gendered, civilized men wouldn't smoke in the presence of women and children. (Of course, women also were legally prohibited in many places from smoking publicly themselves.)

A ban mimics genuine civility by enforcing it through state action.
7.19.2006 5:23pm
M. Brown (mail):
The appalling carnage on Chicago's boulevards and streets, in addition to the second-hand pollution being produced, demand that automobile traffic be banned in the city. Moreover, Chicago residents should be forbidden to own personal vehicles, period. After all, they have perfectly adequate public transportation to get them around town, and get them to the train station and the airport, if they wish to travel beyond Chicago.

And it's for their own good. And the children's. I don't know why this isn't being done.
7.19.2006 5:52pm
Cousin Dave (mail):
So Alderman Burke is concerned about the fate of small businesses that would be hurt by the law he proposes. Towards that end, he's willing to write a bill of attainder singling out certain restraunts for selective enforcement. How touching. How Chicago.
7.20.2006 11:24am
Steven Jens (mail) (www):
There's an Ed Burke on the Chicago City Council?

Also: there's a Republican on the Chicago City Council?
7.23.2006 7:44pm