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New York City Bans Trans Fat: King County Places Issue on their Slate

On December 5 th 2006 , the New York City Board of Health voted unanimously to prohibit the use of ingredients that contain artery-clogging trans fat. The ban will affect 24,600 restaurants in NYC and the restaurants need to be in compliance by July 1 st, 2007 . The ban on trans fats will not apply to pre-packaged foods nor will it apply to naturally occurring trans fats, which are found in some meats and dairy.

This is the first time a city health agency has banned the use of a product, which the Food and Drug Administration has not. The FDA has remained silent on the issue to date.

Artificial trans fats are shown on ingredient lists as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils”. Any food that has been hydrogenated contains trans fats. Trans fats are used for frying foods like French fries and donuts and are also backed into crusts to make them light and fluffy.

The problem is trans fats raise the levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol), which can clog arteries and make them inflexible, leading to strokes and heart attacks. While increasing the levels of LDL , trans fats also scrub away or reduce the levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) which helps keep your arteries clean. Trans fats also raise the levels of other bad blood lipids that contribute to heart disease. Dariush Mozaffarian, a Harvard University cardiologist and epidemiologist, has estimated that up to 22% of annual heart attacks in the U.S. every year are caused by eating trans fat.

Encouraged by it’s success in banning trans fat, New York also decided to mandate that all restaurants offer nutritional information in the form of calorie counts. The calorie count for all items on the menu will need to be posted in the menus or at the very least on menu boards. NYC is hoping that having such information at their fingertips will help diners make healthier meal selections.

The serious health issues associated with the consumption of trans fats are making the reduction or all out ban of the product global in scope. Here is the Puget Sound area, we will begin the public debate on the issue this Friday, December 15, 2006 , when three local health officials will give a briefing on the trans fat issues to the King County Board of Health. King County Council woman Julia Patterson chairs the county health board. She was quoted in the King County Journal ( 12/13/06 , pg A1) as saying that her goal is “to find some kind of solution to reduce or eliminate trans fat from the food supply.”

If you like to fry or sauté with oil, you can check into Soybean Oil. Conventional soybean oil is plentiful, healthier and has a nice, neutral flavor. It should not be hydrogenated (check the label), and they do contain two of the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic) that are not produced by the body. Linoleic and linolenic acids foster the body’s absorption of vital nutrients and are required for good human health.