The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

NYC Considers Ban on Trans Fat in Restaurant Food

by Shreema Mehta

Nov. 1, 2006 – The New York City Board of Health has proposed requiring restaurants in the city to phase out their use of trans fats, arguing that consuming the substances can lead to heart disease.

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The vast majority of participants at a public hearing Monday expressed support for the ban, according to Reuters. Speakers included New York City government officials, as well as representatives from restaurant, medical and advocacy groups.

If the proposal passes, city restaurants would have 18 months to stop serving food products that have more than .5 grams of trans fat per serving.

"New Yorkers are consuming a hazardous, artificial substance without their knowledge or consent," Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said in a press statement. "Like lead in paint, artificial trans fat in food is invisible and dangerous, and it can be replaced."

According to Reuters, the National Restaurant Association warned against the plan during Monday’s hearing.

"At this time... we believe that it is not appropriate to require a ban on trans fats served in our restaurants," said Sheila Cohn Weiss, an Association spokesperson. "In our hurry to replace trans [fats], we must ensure we are not simply returning to the palm oils and other saturates but find healthier, sustainable alternatives."

Trans fats are made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Trans fats raise the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level, commonly known as "bad cholesterol," that tends to build up in arteries. The FDA says trans fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

The Board of Health also proposed requiring some restaurants to post nutrition information on menu boards, "where consumers can see it before they order."

According to Reuters, Audrey Silk, founder of NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, said such measures infringe upon the privacy of residents. "Our bodies aren't the property of the state or the city," she said.

But the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest said food regulation is not new.

"It makes perfectly good sense for health authorities to set limits on the amount of artificial trans fat in foods in the same way they set limits on various dyes, chemicals, or other additives in food," executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement before Monday’s hearing.

On the same day of the hearing, fast food giant KFC announced it will eliminate trans fat in most of its food by April 2007. It will fry chicken and other foods in soybean oil instead.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Shreema Mehta is a staff journalist.

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