- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Montgomery County Council yesterday unanimously approved a resolution making the county the first in the country to ban artificial trans fats from food served in eating and drinking establishments.

“Trans fats are clearly linked to heart disease and diabetes,” said council member Duchy Trachtenberg, who introduced the resolution. “It is common sense for the well-being and health of our residents.”

Trans fats are most common in cake, candy, cookies, fast food, stick margarine, microwave popcorn and commercially prepared fish sticks.

The ban takes effect Jan. 1. However, the ban on the sale of baked goods does not begin until Jan. 1, 2009. And waivers until Jan. 1, 2010, can be requested for prepackaged foods, said council spokesman Neil Greenberger.

The resolution likely will not require more county personnel or increase county costs because health inspectors routinely inspect restaurants, taverns and other food establishments, Miss Trachtenberg said.

Michael F. Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, praised the county’s decision, saying the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges trans fats contribute to the death of tens of thousands of Americans each year.

He also said businesses such as the Silver Diner and Marriott, whose headquarters is in the county, are ahead of most other food-service providers in getting rid of artificial trans fats.

Chains such as Ruby Tuesday, Legal Seafood, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Au Bon Pain, Panera Bread and California Pizza Kitchen have started removing the fats.

In 2006, New York City became the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban such fats. Then, Philadelphia ordered their removal. Denmark is the first country to ban them.

Trans fat, short for trans fatty acids, is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. The words “partially hydrogenated oil” mean the product contains trans fat. Scientists say the fat increases LDL (bad) cholesterol, and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol. It has no known health benefits, and it causes inflammation that relates to heart attack, according to statistics provided by county.

Researchers estimate that 10 percent to 19 percent of coronary heart disease could be averted by reducing the intake of trans fat. Reducing such intake could prevent 72,000 to 228,000 heart attacks each year in the United States. The nine-member County Councilsaid the ban could save the lives of 2,000 area residents.

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