- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

NEW YORK

Three years after the city banned smoking in restaurants, health officials are talking about prohibiting something they say is almost as bad: artificial trans fatty acids.

The city health department released a proposal yesterday that, starting July 1, would bar cooks at any of New York’s 24,600 food service establishments from using ingredients that contain the artery-clogging substance, commonly listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil.

Artificial trans fats are found in some shortenings, margarine and frying oils and turn up in foods from pie crusts to french fries to doughnuts.

Doctors agree that trans fats are unhealthy in nearly any amount, but a spokesman for the restaurant industry said he was stunned that the city would seek to ban a legal ingredient found in millions of American kitchens.

“Labeling is one thing, but when they totally ban a product, it goes well beyond what we think is prudent and acceptable,” said Chuck Hunt, executive vice president of the city’s chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association.

He said the proposal could create havoc: Cooks would be forced to discard old recipes and scrutinize every ingredient in their pantry. A restaurant could be fined if an inspector found the wrong type of vegetable shortening on its shelves.

The proposal also would create a huge problem for national chains. Among the fast foods that would need to get an overhaul or face a ban: McDonald’s french fries, Kentucky Fried Chicken and several varieties of Dunkin’ Donuts.

Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden acknowledged that the ban would be a challenge for restaurants, but he said trans fats can be replaced easily with oils that taste the same or better and are far less unhealthy.

“It is a dangerous and unnecessary ingredient,” Mr. Frieden said. “No one will miss it when it’s gone.”

A few companies have moved to eliminate trans fats on their own.

Wendy’s announced in August that it had switched to a cooking oil that contains no trans fatty acids. Crisco now sells a shortening that contains zero trans fats. Frito-Lay removed trans fats from its Doritos and Cheetos, and Kraft took trans fats out of its Oreo cookies.

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