business news in context, analysis with attitude

The September 2003 issue of Men's Health has a story on page 116 called "The Hidden Killer" that starts like this:

    Twist the top cookie to the right, the bottom to the left, and pull apart. Now, before you scrape that sweet cream filling into your mouth with your top teeth as you've done hundreds of times since you were five, take a good look at some very bad fat.

    It's called trans fat, and chances are you've never heard of it because until a few months ago, companies weren't required to list it on their labels.

And further down:

    The food and edible-oil industries are worried that if we ever find out exactly how many killer fats are actually in our foods, we'll stop buying them - costing their companies millions, and possibly billions, of dollars each year.

The three-page story is a comprehensive look at the foods contain trans fats, the foods that do not, the choices that consumers can and ought to make, and how the how the Center for science in the Public Interest (CSPI) "first began petitioning the FDA to add trans fats to food labels way back in 1993," while the Grocery Manufacturers of America "kicked into overdrive," was "desperate to protect its members," and submitted "alternate proposals to the FDA, thereby hampering efforts to pass the regulation."

Get the picture?
KC's View:
This is an important story, well worth reading - whether you agree with the way it positions the industry or not. This is the message that consumers are getting - that the industry is protecting itself, not the consumer.

Too often, of course, companies perceive their own interests as being different from consumers' interests. Which seems silly, considering that companies that manufacture and sell food ought to be absolutely in touch with consumer concerns about issues such as these.

Furthermore, the Men's Health piece has some surprises that a lot of people may not be aware of…

That, for example, there is one kind of trans fat - called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that recent studies suggest people ought to be eating more of, because it may help people lose weight, as well as fight off cancer, diabetes and heart disease,

Or, to cite another interesting tidbit, the fact that people looking to eliminate trans fats in their diets should choose tortillas over bread, bacon over waffles, and milk instead of nondairy creamer. (Go figure.)

The trans fat story will continue to find its way into headlines, especially as it finds its way increasingly onto food labels. It is critical that retailers embrace the subject, garner as much knowledge as possible about it, and make this information available to consumers.

The Men's Health piece is a good start.