Regulation: The badly misnamed Center for Science in the Public Interest takes on Colonel Sanders in a suit to ban what it once recommended. This has nothing to do with either science or the public interest.
Those who remember Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" shouting "No Soup For You!" whenever a customer strayed from his menu-selection protocol must have had a sense of deja vu when the CSPI sued American fast-food icon Kentucky Fried Chicken for its use of cooking oil containing trans fat.
In its latest lawsuit against the food industry, CSPI asked a Kentucky judge to order KFC to use other types of cooking oils and inform its customers just how much trans fat its food contains.
The irony here is that it was self-proclaimed consumer groups, among them the CPSI, that forced KFC and others to use trans fats in the first place.
KFC decided to use trans fats — vegetable oils altered to stay firm at room temperature — after being lobbied by CSPI. The Center for Consumer Freedom reminds us that CSPI said in 1988 in its Nutrition Action Newsletter: "All told, the charges against trans fat just don't stand up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent."
When it said that, the CSPI was also trying to get McDonald's to stop using beef tallow to cook French fries. Now it's saying exactly the opposite.
"It's galling," said J. Justin Wilson, research analyst with Consumer Freedom, "that the group largely responsible for harassing restaurants into switching to trans fat, would now sue these companies for bowing to its demands."
The lawsuit says KFC's use of trans fat betrays the company's "evil motive" and "intent to injure," and "recklessly put its customers at risk of a 'Kentucky Fried Coronary.' "
Let it be stipulated that it is not part of KFC's or any other food purveyor's business model to kill off paying customers.
KFC provides data on its Web site for interested customers, and brochures are provided in its restaurants. At some point, we presume, common sense and personal responsibility take over.
It does not take much consumer education or litigation to realize that a steady diet of extra crispy chicken legs, or bacon double cheeseburgers for that matter, isn't healthy long-term.
So is trans fat dangerous? Evidence suggests it temporarily raises your level of "bad" cholesterol and lowers your level of the good stuff. And Tufts University nutrition specialist Alice Lichtenstein says "there's no human requirement for trans fat."
But that's a long way from saying it kills you.
Dr. Scott Grundy, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, told The New York Times last year that the alleged link between trans fat and heart disease was too weak to warrant any government action.
CSPI obviously believes people are too stupid to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy choices and activities. They seem to think most folks are brain-dead robots forced to walk into a fast-food joint and order so-called junk food, only to be saved by greedy lawyers — or by "Soup Nazis" obsessed with the idea that somebody, somewhere, might actually be enjoying himself.
Indeed, CSPI's executive director, Michael Jacobson, was once described by Matt Marshall of the Chicago Sun-Times as having "a mission in life — to take the joy out of America's favorite munchies, from burgers to pasta to popcorn." Don't invite him to your next Super Bowl party.
We know our rights. We believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of popcorn chicken.