Trans Fat Bans and Human Freedom
American Journal of Bioethics 2010 March; 10(3): 27-32
A growing body of evidence has linked consumption of trans fatty acids to cardiovascular disease. To promote public health, numerous state and local governments in the United States have banned the use of artificial trans fats in restaurant foods, and additional bans may follow. Although these policies may have a positive impact on human health, they open the door to excessive government control over food, which could restrict dietary choices, interfere with cultural, ethnic, and religious traditions, and exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities. These slippery slope concerns cannot be dismissed as far-fetched, because the social and political pressures are place to induce additional food regulations. To protect human freedom and other values, policies that significantly restrict food choices, such as bans on types of food, should be adopted only when they are supported by substantial scientific evidence, and when policies that impose fewer restrictions on freedom, such as educational campaigns and product labeling, are likely to be ineffective.
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