Business and Operations
Consumer Satisfaction in the State of Denmark
By Brooke Shaw
Eighty-one layers, no trans fats and all the mouthfeel too….
Denmark was the first nation to declare war on artery-clogging trans fats in 2003, despite the recent news of Canada’s move to regulations and New York City’s talk of banning doughnuts, among other fried goodies. Two years ago, Denmark made it illegal for any food to have more than two per cent trans fat, with offenders facing hefty fines, or even prison terms.
Initially, other countries in the European Union objected to the ban, arguing it would be economically unfair since their foods could not be imported into Denmark. Many producers were also concerned about the possible change in texture and taste without the additives.
Amazingly, today, hardly anyone notices a difference. That doesn’t mean the transition wasn’t painful for a few. Preserving the delicacy of renowned Danish pastries was a major concern for Marianne Stagetorn Kolos, owner of La Glace, a famed Copenhagen café. When the bakers there began experimenting, “There was a bit of a crisis,” she admitted.
The trans fat-free margarine melted too soon, destroying the traditional flakiness of the 81-layered pastries. It was disastrous. “Everything was flat,” said Stagetorn. That problem was solved by simply switching margarine suppliers.
Eventually, the pastries tasted as good as they always did. “If it wasn’t for the law, I never would have known that there wasn’t any trans fat,” says one customer.
Trans fats have been called the tobacco of the nutrition world. They lower the good cholesterol while raising the bad. Even eating an amount that has less than five grams of trans fat daily — about one piece of fried chicken with a side of French fries — has been linked with a 25 per cent increased risk of heart disease.
“No other fat at these low levels of intake has such harmful effects,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Dr. Steen Stender, one of the leading Danish experts who lobbied for the anti-trans fats law said, “We wanted to protect people so that they would not even have to know what trans fat was.”
Though obesity rates are rising in Denmark, they are far below those of most countries, and less than half of Britain’s obesity rate. It is still too early to tell if removing trans fats from food in Denmark has improved the country’s health.
For Danes like Troels Andersen, the government’s decision means he feels less guilty about his fast-food habit. “I know trans fats are bad….It’s good that the Danish government got rid of trans fats so that I don’t have to worry about it.”