- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

2:19 p.m.

NEW YORK — The Board of Health voted today to make New York the nation’s first city to ban artery-clogging artificial trans fats at restaurants — from the corner pizzeria to high-end bakeries.

The board, which passed the ban unanimously, gave restaurants a slight break by relaxing what had been considered a tight deadline for compliance. Restaurants will be barred from using most frying oils containing artificial trans fats by July and will have to eliminate the artificial trans fats from all of their foods by July 2008.

Restaurant industry representatives called the ban burdensome and unnecessary.

“We don’t think that a municipal health agency has any business banning a product the Food and Drug Administration has already approved,” said Dan Fleshler, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association.

Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said recently that officials seriously weighed complaints from the restaurant industry, which argued that it was unrealistic to give them six months to replace cooking oils and shortening and 18 months to phase out the ingredients altogether.

The ban contains some exceptions; for instance, it would allow restaurants to serve foods that come in the manufacturer’s original packaging.

Trans fats are believed to be harmful because they contribute to heart disease by raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol at the same time. Some experts say that makes trans fats worse than saturated fat.

The panel also passed another measure that has made restaurants unhappy: Some that chose to inform customers about calorie content will have to list the information on the menu. The rule generally would apply to fast-food restaurants and major chains.

Sheila Weiss, director of nutritional policy for the restaurant association, said the rule would discourage restaurants from providing any nutritional information.

Trans fats are formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats by adding hydrogen in a process called hydrogenation. A common example of this is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is used for frying and baking and turns up in processed foods such as cookies, pizza dough and crackers. Trans fats, which are favored because of their long shelf life, also are found in such pre-made blends as mixes for pancakes and hot chocolate.

The FDA estimates the average American eats 4.7 pounds of trans fats each year.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who banned smoking in bars and restaurants during his first term, is somewhat health-obsessed and even maintains a weight-loss competition with one of his friends in order to stay slim.

He has dismissed cries that New York is crossing a line by trying to legislate diets.

“Nobody wants to take away your french fries and hamburgers — I love those things, too,” he said recently, “but if you can make them with something that is less damaging to your health, we should do that.”

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