Trans-fat ban serves up unexpected opportunity

When New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began its campaign to eliminate trans fat from city restaurants, opposing forces were easily excitable and up in arms about how such Draconian measures by the city to control the behaviors of its denizens could lead to a loss of freedom.

When New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began its campaign to eliminate trans fat from city restaurants, opposing forces were easily excitable and up in arms about how such Draconian measures by the city to control the behaviors of its denizens could lead to a loss of freedom.

While protests about trans fat, which enhances taste, but offers no redeeming nutritional qualities, potentially disappearing from restaurants have quieted down somewhat, the proposed ban has had an unlikely effect in creating opportunities elsewhere for the golden nexus of PR: doing good while getting good ink for it. Outside of the city, the proposed ban has paradoxically given corporations and restaurants a free-choice opportunity to explain where they stand on consumer health. And if restaurants, organizations, and corporations across the country are following suit in eliminating trans fats, it is because information, not forceful law, is winning out.

Restaurants are clearly acting in their best interests. Take KFC, which decided to cut trans fat out of most of its menu items. Its announcement (PRWeek, November 13) was timed to coincide with NYC public hearings. KFC is neither eliminating fried food, nor abandoning its heritage as a comfort choice. It is scoring an easy victory, in a time where many people equate junk food with other vices like tobacco and alcohol. Chains and restaurant associations from San Antonio to Las Cruces, NM, to Toledo, OH, are sensing the opportunity to cut out trans fat and boast about it.

Corporations are understandably wary about governmental interference in what wares they sell and how they do it. And while purveyors of foods that could be construed as unhealthy are not out of the woods, their communications teams would be wise to see the writings on the wall and get their victories where they can.

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