A brief history of the federal government’s love-hate relationship with trans-fats

posted at 9:31 pm on June 16, 2015 by Mary Katharine Ham

In the late 19th century, the Margarine Act of 1886 taxed the entire burgeoning margarine industry nearly out of business. Margarine, invented by French chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries in the 1860s, was considered a cheaper and tasty alternative to butter. Low-income families happily jumped on the spreadable commodity:

In 1871, the U.S. Dairy Company began manufacturing margarine in New York City. In March 1874, Harper’s Weekly reported that two factories in New York produced 19,000 pounds of margarine daily, and eight million pounds had been consumed in the United States within the past year.

And, the dairy lobby quickly took to the levers of power to sink their new competition. Butter producers suggested margarine was made of tainted fat and masquerading as butter. After that, they convinced the New York state legislator to ban the product, but the law was later overturned as unconstitutional. Onto Congress, which did not ban the substance, but imposed crippling taxes upon it:

After the constant legal and marketing barrage had driven the margarine industry to a shadow of its former glory, Uncle Sam weighed in. In 1886 the Federal Margarine Act slapped a special two-cent tax on margarine and required annual license fees. Margarine butter producers were now forced to pay $600 a year; wholesalers, $480; and retailers, $48, simply to be allowed to sell margarine!

Many states also got around constitutional concerns about banning margarine outright by banning the dyeing of margarine yellow. The natural color of margarine is an unappetizing translucent white-ish, so its success as a butter substitute was somewhat reliant on this cosmetic change. Other states required that margarine be colored pink to distinguish it from butter.

Flash forward several decades, and you’ll find the decades-long push from nutritionists and the federal government against butter and in favor of margarine. Why? Because saturated fat, found in butter, was the health villain of the moment— sure to raise bad cholesterol and therefore heart disease risk. Whereas the vegetable oils and, yes, trans fats in margarine were considered dandy, even though the current complaint about trans fats is that it raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, increasing heart disease risk.

Not all margarine these days has trans fat in it, but that wasn’t the case widely when the government was recommending it to curb your butter habit for so long.

And now of course, the government knows best again. Sure, we’ve been wrong and/or corrupt for a century when it comes to regulating your nutrition choices, they say, but how ’bout another giant dose of overreach? The FDA’s just going to ban trans fats altogether. Because they know best.

Until it turns out they don’t.

Repeat after me. Not everything you think is problematic must be banned. Not everything you fancy must be mandated.

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Comments

“Caitlyn” Jenner’s boobs are pure trans-fat. Ban it, too?

Rix on June 16, 2015 at 9:33 PM

And, lo, Mary actually didn’t mention her book!

bluegill on June 16, 2015 at 9:34 PM

My parents were proud oleo runners. US 41 (later to be I-94) was known as the Oleo Highway as those in southeast Wisconsin dashed across the border to buy margarine in Illinois.

Wisconsin still has a ban on “unrequested” margarine at restaurant tables.

Steve Eggleston on June 16, 2015 at 9:34 PM

What the hell is next? Regulating what school children eat for lunch? Oh, wait..

bernzright777 on June 16, 2015 at 9:36 PM

F&#king horde of facists. They can all get bent.

thirtyandseven on June 16, 2015 at 9:38 PM

And, lo, Mary actually didn’t mention her book!

bluegill on June 16, 2015 at 9:34 PM

But you’re still an A$$.

RickB on June 16, 2015 at 9:39 PM

You will enjoy your twice daily soy pill, now with .034% more soy.

Meanwhile your liberal overlords will have access to whatever they want because they’re not peons like you.

Bishop on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

In the new America, why would anybody care? We now know trans-fats only feel like they’re fat, but they’re not really, so what’s the fuss?

/groan

Skip2014 on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

My parents talk about having to use oleo during WWII. IIRC, there was a yellowing dye.

BTW, is coffee good for you or bad for you this week?

rbj on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

Oleo margarines originally were just white; nobody bought it. Then they were coloured like butter, but the dairy industry complained, so they became a light pukey yellow, darker than butter. Eventually the colouring was reduced, in part I think over the issue of food colouring safety.

Skip2014 on June 16, 2015 at 9:44 PM

Ha. I thought that was “Caitlyn” in that pic.

About the same level of femininity as the ol Fab.

somewhatconcerned on June 16, 2015 at 9:45 PM

As long as Soylent Green is still people, I’m ayyight.

bernzright777 on June 16, 2015 at 9:45 PM

Just a matter of time until the VGTB crowd criminalizes the eating of meat (uhm, I suppose I should qualify that with “outside of during sex”) …

ShainS on June 16, 2015 at 9:46 PM

My parents talk about having to use oleo during WWII. IIRC, there was a yellowing dye.

BTW, is coffee good for you or bad for you this week?

rbj on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

I think the under/over on coffee is 4 cups a day, for now.

Mini-14 on June 16, 2015 at 9:48 PM

I think the under/over on coffee is 4 cups a day, for now.

Mini-14 on June 16, 2015 at 9:48 PM

I’m going to need bigger coffee cups.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 9:50 PM

As the old Imperial Margarine commercial used to say:

Its not nice to fool Mother Nature. (applies to trans fat and just plain trans)

BobMbx on June 16, 2015 at 9:54 PM

BTW, is coffee good for you or bad for you this week?

rbj on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

It alternates with the oatmeal vs. cholesterol kerfuffle. Lets see….even month, odd year….that means coffee good, oatmeal out.

BobMbx on June 16, 2015 at 9:56 PM

And, lo, Mary actually didn’t mention her book!

bluegill on June 16, 2015 at 9:34 PM

Whoa there. It’s not easy bumping David McCullough from the #1 spot on the NY Times Bestseller List.

Besides, it’s doing well in it’s categories on Amazon.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 9:58 PM

Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet on it, well, except for everything…

RSbrewer on June 16, 2015 at 9:59 PM

MKH, love the Fabio pic.

Thanks.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 9:59 PM

BTW, is coffee good for you or bad for you this week?

rbj on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

What’s really good is to put a tablespoon of butter in your coffee. No sarcasm – it is good! and you will feel full longer because of the fat.

We like Kerrygold – it’s from grassfed cows and honestly tastes better

batterup on June 16, 2015 at 10:00 PM

Grandma’s pie made with pure lard and cake with real eggs. Grandma knew best.

RSbrewer on June 16, 2015 at 10:01 PM

And, lo, Mary actually didn’t mention her book!

bluegill on June 16, 2015 at 9:34 PM

BG, not that you give a shit, but why do you find that stuff necessary when you are perfectly capable of rational thought? Pressured speech/writing can be controlled with proper Eddie Quit.

arnold ziffel on June 16, 2015 at 10:02 PM

rbj on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

Paper or plastic?

Don’t forget that. Which is better?

SpongePuppy on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

And, lo, Mary actually didn’t mention her book!

bluegill on June 16, 2015 at 9:34 PM

Well I thought at this time of the day that was what her regular posting was supposed to do.

TheMadHessian on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

“Chocolate rations have been increased from eighty grams to fifty”

Eggs are bad for you… Oops, eggs are not bad for you.
Salt is bad for you… Oops, Salt is not bad for you.
Coffee is bad for you… Oops, coffee is not bad for you.
Beer is bad for you… Oops, beer is not bad for you.
Red meat is bad for you… Oops, red meat is not bad for you.

What goes on in Mordor on the Potomac is basically this. Various Congressional Orcs come up with potential legislation that will negatively impact some lawful commerce. They then let slip to influential members of that particular form of lawful commerce that their is legislation pending that might negatively impact their lawful commerce.

Should those influential members of that particular form of lawful commerce make the appropriate political contributions, this pending legislation can be modified so that it will no longer negatively impact their form of lawful commerce.

Should they fail to make the appropriate political contributions, well, then said legislation becomes law until such appropriate political contributions are forthcoming.

And when this isn’t the case, those same Congressional Orcs come up with legislation that will negatively impact the lawful commerce of some group at the bequest of another group in competition with the first group.

Yes, this really is exactly how our government works and is exactly how corrupt it has become.

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

Pressured speech/writing can be controlled with proper Eddie Quit.

arnold ziffel on June 16, 2015 at 10:02 PM

I know Eddie. Nice guy.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:04 PM

Paper or plastic?

Don’t forget that. Which is better?

SpongePuppy on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

You’re still pro-tree, aren’t you? I mean, because you are a puppy, and puppies gotta do what puppies gotta do, it’s easier to find a tree than to locate a gas station.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:06 PM

I know Eddie. Nice guy.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:04 PM

Yeah, but he’s a quitter.

bernzright777 on June 16, 2015 at 10:10 PM

Paper or plastic?

Don’t forget that. Which is better?

SpongePuppy on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

Plastic is evil because you have to rape Mother Gaia to obtain the crude oil to make it…

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:11 PM

“scientific consensus”

avi natan on June 16, 2015 at 10:12 PM

Yeah, but he’s a quitter.

bernzright777 on June 16, 2015 at 10:10 PM

Nah. Maybe he’s this guy.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:14 PM

Plastic is evil because you have to rape Mother Gaia to obtain the crude oil to make it…

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:11 PM

Speaking of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, have you seen this yet?

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:15 PM

“scientific consensus”

avi natan on June 16, 2015 at 10:12 PM

Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:16 PM

We like Kerrygold – it’s from grassfed cows and honestly tastes better

batterup on June 16, 2015 at 10:00 PM

Yep. It even looks better.

ROCnPhilly on June 16, 2015 at 10:26 PM

It should be relatively simple, give the people the “facts” and let them decide. I believe that, with all the propaganda against butter, its sales are right up there again. The thing is they didn’t ban butter. Sure, they gave it a bad name, but they didn’t ban it. Apparently, just giving trans-fats a bad name hasn’t worked so now they’re going to stick their hands into it.

I certainly hope the next President doesn’t appoint a bunch of zealots with agendas to positions in these agencies. The zealots I’d like to see are those who want to get the government out of our lives, except in cases of safety. If we’re worried about trans-fats, give us the information and go on from there.

bflat879 on June 16, 2015 at 10:26 PM

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:11 PM

Speaking of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, have you seen this yet?

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:15 PM

Yup, was laughing about it less than an hour ago. The State of California is about to get the living carp sued out of them, and they’re going to lose big time.

California’s so called drought is more man made than natural. Its more about a combination of poor planning, corruption and revenue generation than anything else.

For the last 40 years we have been trying to have a series of desalination plants built at key demographic locations along the California coast. The EnviroNazi’s and the Democrats keep blocking their construction.

The voters approved something like 10 desalination plants, money was appropriated for them, then the EnviroNazi’s waged Lawfare and stopped their construction, and the democrats stole the appropriated funds.

San Fransisco dumped a 2 year supply for San Fransisco County because of allegations that someone saw a single individual urinate into the reservoir.

California has a climate modification program where they open reservoirs in Northern California during the summer and double the natural water flow of dozens of rivers under the theory that the increased water flow will lower the temperatures throughout Northern California.

So, yea, when the state revoked water rights contracts that are nearly a century old, and some of the most clearly defined legal contracts in California, I had a pretty good laugh.

Steal the money appropriated for desalination plants, spend it on a bullet train to nowhere, totaling over 100 billion dollars so far, for which not one single teaspoon of dirt has been moved or inch of track laid and then claim that their is a drought so sever that they absolutely must violate lawful contracts and shut entire cities water off.

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:45 PM

What the government is trying to do is horrendous. If people choose to gain weight because they identify with the obese, they should have that right. It is clearly a civil rights violation for the government to try to ban these trans-fat people.

malclave on June 16, 2015 at 10:53 PM

arnold ziffel on June 16, 2015 at 10:02 PM

I know Eddie. Nice guy.

Mommys Little Darling on June 16, 2015 at 10:04 PM

He is…and sometimes I should take me own advice.

arnold ziffel on June 16, 2015 at 11:01 PM


Should they fail to make the appropriate political contributions, well, then said legislation becomes law until such appropriate political contributions are forthcoming.

And when this isn’t the case, those same Congressional Orcs come up with legislation that will negatively impact the lawful commerce of some group at the bequest of another group in competition with the first group.

Yes, this really is exactly how our government works and is exactly how corrupt it has become pretty much always been.

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

Could not agree with you more, with that teensy addition.

AesopFan on June 16, 2015 at 11:57 PM

But the emperor still lets us eat cake. Right?

Oxymoron on June 17, 2015 at 12:15 AM

I’ve found I’ve saved a lot of time by simply opposing new regulations, period. The more draconian they are, the more I

Adjoran on June 17, 2015 at 12:25 AM

I am against them.

Don’t know what happened, it seemed to post itself while I was typing!

Adjoran on June 17, 2015 at 12:26 AM

But the emperor still lets us eat cake. Right?

Oxymoron on June 17, 2015 at 12:15 AM

As soon as they are able to mandate out all the taste, they’ll encourage us to eat all we like.

Adjoran on June 17, 2015 at 12:27 AM

Food Babe in charge.
Soon: broccoli is toxic.
Pass the popcorn.

Kenosha Kid on June 17, 2015 at 1:13 AM

I’m really thinking that the very existence of an FDA was a huge mistake.

cthulhu on June 17, 2015 at 1:29 AM

Pretty soon we’ll all be eating that green slime filth they make the school kids eat. It will be the only thing left they will let us eat.

I wish I could encourage every food manufacturer out there to just disregard this dictator of a president. If nobody would listen to him, maybe he would go away.
There are just too many months left before the next election for him to do waaayy too much damage. And I’ll bet he will. I’m afraid the worst is yet to come with this lot.
And even then we get the very real possibility of getting another fascist democrat in the White House. Oh boy.

Sterling Holobyte on June 17, 2015 at 1:55 AM

Steal the money appropriated for desalination plants, spend it on a bullet train to nowhere, totaling over 100 billion dollars so far, for which not one single teaspoon of dirt has been moved or inch of track laid and then claim that their is a drought so sever that they absolutely must violate lawful contracts and shut entire cities water off.

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:45 PM

To which, the Democrats in Sacramento say, “Yeah, so?”

Spiny Norman on June 17, 2015 at 2:14 AM

Heard a commercial for the USDA on the radio today that said, and I quote, “Like your momma, we know what’s best for you”. WTF?

stout77 on June 17, 2015 at 2:25 AM

The difference, MKH, is that butter comes from a cow and margarine comes from a chemist. I don’t know how the hell we let someone tell us that an oil that has to be chemically extracted with a petroleum solvent was better for us than eggs but we believed it. Anyway, from now on I’m sticking with that which is closest to natural, and least molested.

DFCtomm on June 17, 2015 at 4:14 AM

As we still say around here: ‘You won’t believe its not better’

We are in the Sleeper universe, and having your steak done with butter, having dark chocolate after it with coffee, and that great iceberg lettuce salad as a starter is turning out to be a great meal that’s great for you. Add in some red wine with the beef steak, some beer at the starter and you have a complete and nutritious meal!

At the rate we are going we will find out something good about smoking tobacco and then the pack a day habit will return…

And, yeah, butter FTW.

ajacksonian on June 17, 2015 at 7:18 AM

I’m totally against the dirty politics that have been used against margarine, but regarding transfats, people should know that heat will turn polyunsaturates into transfats in the pan. So even margarine without transfats is not good to use for cooking.

paul1149 on June 17, 2015 at 7:35 AM

A stick of trans fat margarine : “I identify as butter”.

Rambotito on June 17, 2015 at 9:05 AM

“Chocolate rations have been increased from eighty grams to fifty”

What goes on in Mordor on the Potomac is…

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

Killin’ it, Oscar. Beautiful.

Jaibones on June 17, 2015 at 9:16 AM

San Fransisco dumped a 2 year supply for San Fransisco County because of allegations that someone saw a single individual urinate into the reservoir.

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:45 PM

Which is doubly stupid since the water we have today is the same water that was here during the Devonian. Every single drop of water on Earth has been pissed out by something and recycled several times over the ages. All water on Earth is recycled sewage.

Oldnuke on June 17, 2015 at 9:27 AM

DFCtomm on June 17, 2015 at 4:14 AM

which is your choice.
I don’t like the taste of real butter so I choose to use margarine.
if anything this is another example of states rights issue, if the majority of the people in a state want to ban it then so be it. but it would be pretty stupid.

dmacleo on June 17, 2015 at 9:41 AM

it’s a nice start, but it’s sugar that is most in need of regulation.

everdiso on June 17, 2015 at 10:05 AM

if anything this is another example of states rights issue, if the majority of the people in a state want to ban it then so be it. but it would be pretty stupid.

dmacleo on June 17, 2015 at 9:41 AM

You don’t seriously think regulating this at the state level makes any more sense than at the federal, do you?

Where the hell does ANY government entity get the authority to tell me what I can and cannot eat?

it’s a nice start, but it’s sugar that is most in need of regulation.

everdiso on June 17, 2015 at 10:05 AM

Bugger off, fascist.

runawayyyy on June 17, 2015 at 10:40 AM

“Chocolate rations have been increased from eighty grams to fifty”

Eggs are bad for you… Oops, eggs are not bad for you.
Salt is bad for you… Oops, Salt is not bad for you.
Coffee is bad for you… Oops, coffee is not bad for you.
Beer is bad for you… Oops, beer is not bad for you.
Red meat is bad for you… Oops, red meat is not bad for you.

oscarwilde on June 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

You left of the most recent:
Dietary cholesterol is bad for you… Oops, dietary cholesterol is not bad for you.

Eat less cholesterol, your body makes more. Eat more, your body makes less. So how much you eat really doesn’t matter (within reason).

taznar on June 17, 2015 at 11:46 AM

My parents talk about having to use oleo during WWII. IIRC, there was a yellowing dye.

rbj on June 16, 2015 at 9:40 PM

Which is exactly why my mother refused to have margarine in our house. We may have been short on money and margarine much cheaper than butter, but Hell would have frozen first.

The margarine came in a plastic beg, accompanied by a capsule of yellow dye. You opened the margarine package, broke the dye capsule, poured the dye over the margarine, then squished the dye into the margarine until it was mostly mixed. (According to my mother, you just couldn’t get rid of all the streaks of bright yellow running through the stuff.)

catsandbooks on June 17, 2015 at 1:47 PM

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I visited a nutritionist. She nattered at me for a good half hour about the evils of fat in any way, shape or form. Then, when I went to the grocery store, I realized I had absolutely no idea what to buy. For the first six weeks, until I attended a diabetes education class, I couldn’t understand why my blood glucose level never went below 170. (Bad. Target is 140) After all, I wasn’t ingesting a single drop of fat. In my diabetes class, I discovered that my problem was carbs, not fats. I was eating way too many carbs. The same thing happened to a friend of mine. She went to the nutritionist on her lunch hour, left the woman’s office, then sat in her car and cried because she was starving, she was looking down the street at a vast array of fast food options, had no idea if she could eat something from any one of them and was due back at work in a very short time.

Since then, I have come to the conclusion that nutritionists are little more than modern witch doctors. The alleged “science” changes by the hour, and most nutritionists are still stuck in the no fat-no salt era. They are modern day Puritans — salvation through depriving the body of anything that even remotely tastes good.

catsandbooks on June 17, 2015 at 2:06 PM