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Monday, June 19, 2006

Kentucky Fried Killer?

I don’t generally blog about items that appear in the Tracy Press, because I figure if you found my blog, you must have already waded through the rest of the site. Let’s be honest, few people wake up every morning with a burning urge to read my musings. Well, that’s not necessarily true, but the people who do are most likely related to me and don’t count in this instance (no offense, Mom; you know I love you).

But I just couldn’t ignore Stephen Chapman’s column in today’s online Voice section regarding a government lawsuit against KFC. Chapman, a Creators Syndicate columnist who also writes for the Chicago Tribune, is considered a Libertarian. In my world, that means that some days when I read his column, I throw the paper down and tell anyone within earshot that he’s off his rocker. Other days, I throw the paper down so I can shake my fist in agreement. Today is a fist-shaking day.

Frivolous lawsuit
Today, Chapman takes the people at the Center for Science in the Public Interest to task for sticking their noses where they don’t belong — in the business of KFC and its use of hydrogenated cooking oil. If you don’t have the energy to read the full column, let me sum the CSPI’s core issue: Hydrogenated oil contains trans fats, which cause heart disease, and KFC should be banned from using it. According to Chapman and some scientists, the jury is still out on how evil, awful or terrible trans fats are.

I’m usually the first person to promote anything that might help our country fight its increasing battle with obesity, but there is such a thing as going too far. Generally, I’m willing to jump on any bandwagon that blames the fast-food industry for the declining health of our country’s citizens. But I’m no Pollyanna. I know that the fast-food industry only provides us with products that are lucrative. We are as much at fault for eating the industry’s high-calorie, low-quality food as the restaurants are for offering mega-size value meals.

The root of all evil?
Do I think fast food is evil? Not necessarily, but I don’t think it’s healthy. I’ve watched “Super-size Me” more than once. I believe there is a correlation between the obesity epidemic and our country’s increased reliance on fast food as the meal-time rule instead of the exception it used to be a generation ago.

There are days, typically when I’m suffering from a serious Jack-in-the-Box craving, when I think all fast-food establishments should be razed and replaced with eateries specializing in convenient healthy foods. But it doesn’t take me long to return to reality.

The fact is that we as a society need to start fighting our own battles instead of having the government do it for us. If we don’t want foods with trans fats, we need to stop eating at places we know serves them. The guy who prompted the CSPI lawsuit claims he didn’t know KFC used hydrogenated oil. Chapman points out that if this guy cared that much about trans fats, he would have asked. If enough people decide the danger of trans fats is too much to bear, KFC will notice a reduction in sales and profits. And nothing makes a company act faster than a dwindling bottom line.

Not only is government action in this case ridiculous on principle, it just doesn’t make financial sense. I’d rather my taxes go toward programs educating the public on a wide range of health issues than to fighting one corporation on one arguably minor point. In my book, this is right up there with the lawsuit against McDonald’s for serving hot coffee.

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