U Eschews Fat, But Something's Lost in Trans-lation
12/28/2006 11:41 PM PT
Universal Studios was able to reap some fantastic headlines today, and they're worth remarking upon: General Electric's division of all things fun announced it would ban all trans fats at Universal Studios theme parks.
(True, the remaining few industry types still left in Hollywood aren't likely to be affected: They take their meals The Palm -- where steaks sizzle unapologetically in melted butter.)
The coverage of Universal's move is fascinating, as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does. Indeed, Universal comes off glowingly, as the AP gushes, "The early reviews are mostly positive at the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood where the menu changed on Christmas Eve to cut unhealthy trans fats from many junk food favorites."
The AP's focus has been on how this affects taste, something the five million or so folks who tromp through Universal Studios Hollywood each year surely care about far more than health or legal threats. Absent from the AP's report are the medical and legal contexts in which this is happening: Universal isn't doing this because it loves you and cares about your health; it is terrified about the growing threat of lawsuits and state legislation.
Justifiably, it turns out. While New York City made headlines recently for banning trans fats, it's something that has plenty of businesses seeing red. Why? Trans fats make fried food last longer, a huge money saver for theme parks shoveling chicken fingers down the gullets of moppets. So it's not just replacing the oil that's more expensive -- it's newly healthy foods won't last as long, and that adds up.
So why are Disney and Universal so suddenly willing to put health before profits? It turns out, Universal and Disney are both running scared from the most terrifying Terminators ever devised: Bureaucrats.
Earlier this month, Hollywood saw Europeans going to war against junk food where it really hurts: On TV. As Daily Variety reported earlier this month, members of the European Parliament are mulling restricting all junk food TV ads aimed at children. And back in May, our own Federal Trade Commission released a report linking media companies' marketing practices to childhood obesity. FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras warned, "The FTC plans to monitor industry efforts closely, and we expect to see real improvements."