Another nail was hammered into the coffin for trans fats last week as California announced it was to prohibit restaurants from using artery-clogging trans fats in preparing their food.
Last November local retailer Woolworths responded to the growing concern about the health risks associated with trans fatty acids due to the use of hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVOs), and became the first South African food retailer to remove HVOs from their entire own-brand product range.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will ban restaurants and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fats. In a statement, Schwarzenegger noted that consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease.
"Today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California," he said. Violations could result in fines of $25 to $1 000. Food items sold in their manufacturers' sealed packaging would be exempt.
Legislation takes effect in 2010
A number of cities - including New York, Philadelphia and Seattle - have ordinances banning trans fats, but California is the first state to adopt such a law covering restaurants, said Amy Wintefeld, a health policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
California and Oregon already had laws banning trans fats in meals served at schools, she added. The legislation signed by Schwarzenegger will take effect January 1 ,2010, for oil, shortening and margarine used in spreads or for frying.
Restaurants could continue using trans fats to deep-fry yeast dough and in cake batter until Jan. 1, 2011. Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products. Most trans fats are created when vegetable oil is treated with hydrogen to create baked and fried goods with a longer shelf life.
Stephen Joseph, an attorney who was a consultant to New York City in developing its ban, said trans fat is a larger health risk than saturated fat because it reduces so-called good cholesterol.
Restaurants opposing bill
The California Restaurant Association opposed the bill. Spokesman Daniel Conway said the federal Food and Drug Administration rather than individual states should be developing regulations on trans fat use.
He said, however, that the association has no plans to challenge the law, in part because restaurants already are phasing out trans fats to satisfy customers.
Several major fast-food chains have announced that they have eliminated trans fats from their menus or intend to so do in the near future. "We're confident that California restaurants can meet the mandates of the bill," Conway said. – (Sapa, July 2008)
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