November 20, 2017 2:41PM

Regulation Endangers Baltimore’s Berger Cookie

Priya Krishna reports at Atlas Obscura on one business struggling with the implications of the Obama-era ban on trans fats that goes into effect next year:

The Berger Cookie has become a fixture of Baltimore culture—a point of pride for residents, and an essential item on lists of top city activities....But here’s the rub: One of the most essential ingredients in the Berger Cookie is trans fats. Trans fats are what make the chocolate super creamy, prevent the fat and the water in the dough from separating (which would yield an overly crumbly cookie), and keep the cookie stable in both very warm and very cold settings.

Cookie producer Charlie DeBaufre, interviewed for the article, "refers to the past year as 'frustrating and scary,' as so many of his trans fat-free experiments have been failures. 'I have spent $10,000 trying to get this worked out. I am not a big business. I don’t have an R&D Department. I have to shut down production for a few hours, still pay people for labor, and then most of the product gets trashed. It’s tough.'"

When I wrote about the ban two years ago in this space, changing popular preferences had already cut trans fat consumption by 85 percent. But while applications like deep-frying have had relatively straightforward substitutes, trans fats are tricky to replace across a variety of more specialized food applications, especially while accommodating individual dietary restrictions. Leading replacements like palm oil may themselves not be particularly healthy and may bring other problems of their own.  

A 2013 Reason-RUPE poll found that by a margin of 71 to 24 percent, consumers favor freedom of choice. Time to get the message to the paternalists in Washington, D.C.: don't let this be the way the cookie crumbles.