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Half-Baked: Executive overreach makes its way to your dinner table

The following article was written by Eric Peterson and originally published on

If you had to name a theme for Obama’s second term, it would be regulatory overreach. Despite the repeated rejection of the President’s most controversial proposals by lawmakers, Mr. Obama has turned to his “pen and his phone” (and the vast government bureaucracy he controls) to enact his extreme and often unpopular agenda. Examples of the kind of executive overreach that have come to define his presidency include unilateral changes to Obamacare, sweeping new rules issued by the FCC designed to impose centuries railroad-style regulations on the internet, and the far-reaching and expensive red tape he is seeking to impose on our electricity grid including airline emissions, trucking companies, and even humble wood-burning stoves. The latest overreach, however, may quite literally take the cake and comes to us courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration. This sweeping regulation will directly affect what kinds of food we are allowed to purchase at our neighborhood grocery store.

The FDA has long taken issue with “trans fat” a type of unsaturated fat found produced from vegetable fats. Products containing trans fat have become more widespread since the 1950’s when they appeared on the scene in the form of margarine and have since made their way into everything from frozen pizzas to Reese’s Pieces. While initially viewed as a healthy alternative to other fats, research indicates that overindulging can contribute to health risks. That conclusion led FDA regulators to require food manufacturers to label all their products containing trans fat. While many health conscious individuals choose to steer clear of products that contain trans fat (consumption has decreased 78 percent between 2003 and 2012), millions of Americans have continued to enjoy many of the delicious foods that contain trans fat, albeit in moderation. Unfortunately that’s a problem for the heavies at Mr. Obama’s FDA.

Rather than letting people make their own decisions about whether to indulge in the occasional trans fat-laden snack, the FDA has just ordered a ban on trans fat, which federal regulators say food companies must remove from all of their products by 2018.

And while the FDA is patting itself on the back, the ban will – like most everything else cooked up by federal regulators – may have serious unintended consequences.

Foremost, the cost to food producers could be enormous. While many producers have moved away from trans fat on their own, the fats remain essential to many popular products due to its taste, texture and ability to preserve shelf life. Finding a replacement may not be easy or cheap, and consumers will ultimately face increased costs as a result. Worse, it’s entirely possible that the eventual “replacement” for trans fat may not be any healthier. But these are things federal regulators rarely consider when they try to control our behavior and supplant their all-knowing judgment for our own.

At its core, this ban represents the worst of Washington. Rather than letting individuals decide what’s best for them, our all-knowing government overlords want to tell us they know better. These perpetual critics of freedom simply can’t sit idly by while Americans enjoy the occasional slice of frozen pizza, or handful of candy. For them, that kind of freedom is as dangerous as Reese’s Pieces.

Kidding aside, Americans have little recourse when dealing with the alphabet soup of government agencies that continue to intrude into their daily lives regulating everything from light bulbs to groceries. That’s unfortunate. Families deserve to make their own decisions about what’s best for their lives. Congress should push back on ham-handed FDA regulation, and tell Mr. Obama’s bureaucrats to get their greedy hands out of our collective snack bowl.

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Little recourse? Mr. Peterson should do his homework. An Article V Convention of States can propose constitutional amendments that limit the power of the federal government -- including that of federal agencies.

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