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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

Trans Fat Ban in NYC?

I can't imagine anyone finding fault with a city for passing legislation that bans something with a proven track record of harming public health - like lead in paint, or exposure to asbestos.

New York City is considering a similar move to protect public health - by prohibiting restaurants' use of trans fat.

There are two proposals currently being considered. The first mandates a 6 month phase-out of trans fat use by all restaurants. The second requires those restaurants that already make calorie content available to do so very visibly on menus and menu boards, rather than inconspicuous places like brochures or tray liners.

Trans fat is getting all this attention because it elevates risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). It does so by "rais[ing] the bad blood cholesterol (LDL) while lowering the good cholesterol (HDL)," according to Marion Nestle, the author of What to Eat and a professor in the nutrition department at New York University.

Walter Willet, the Chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health has even stronger words:
"If New Yorkers replace all sources of artificial trans fat, by even the most conservative estimates, at least 500 deaths from heart disease would be prevented each year in New York City - more than the number of people killed annually in motor vehicle crashes. Based on long-term studies, the number of preventable deaths may be many times higher. Trans fat from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is a toxic substance that does not belong in food."
In considering this legislation, NYC joins a growing list of countries and cities moving against the use of trans fat, including Canada and Denmark. In the US, the city of Tiburon, California used a grassroots approach to get the city's 18 restaurants to agree to cook without trans fat in early 2005. Chicago has also proposed a ban, but would limit it to companies with annual revenues of $20 million or more.

Some large companies are being more proactive. Wendy's announced in August that it had switched to cooking oil that contains no trans fat, while Frito-Lay has removed trans fat from Cheetos and Doritos.

At the federal level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring disclosure of trans fat content on food labels in January 2006. Walter Willet was not impressed:
"Artificial trans fats are very toxic, and they almost surely causes tens of thousands of premature deaths each year," he said. "The federal government should have done this long ago."
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