NYC and the Trans Fat Debate

Today a public meeting was held in New York City to allow New Yorkers to weigh in on the city’s resolution to ban artificial trans fats from local restaurants. Mayor Bloomberg among others would like to see New York become the first American city to ban these artificial fats by limiting them to 1/2 gram per serving. The law, if it goes into effect, would also force restaurants to include caloric information to patrons. For those of us who didn’t really want to know what our french fries are made of, those days may soon be over.

As of August, 2005, the New York City Department of Health and Hygiene had strongly recommended that NYC restaurants voluntarily eliminate trans fats, specifically partially hydrogenated vegetable oils although it was not required. Thus, the restaurants in question in NYC today were mainly fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy’s.

According to a report on New York One, New York’s local news channel, Wendy’s has already undertaken the necessary steps to remove artificial trans fats from their foods. Today Kentucky Fried Chicken also made an announcement that it was phasing out trans-fats by April 2007. McDonald’s made an announcement several years ago claiming their interest in doing the same, but apparently has yet to make the switch.

All this comes on the heels of the law coming into effect in 2008 requiring companies to include trans fats on the labels of foods they sell containing them. Many companies, as you would guess, have already made or are making an effort to remove trans fats from their products rather than having to include that information on their packaging. Companies who sell products that never contained trans fats are banking on that fact by labeling their products as such in hopes of boosting sales. Essentially, trans fats are fast becoming a veritable scarlet ‘A’ in the food world.

All of this sounds great, right? Not to critics–namely owners who stand to lose money over the ban. Trans fats are cheaper to use than their healthy alternatives. Restaurants use them because they’re inexpensive, not because they’re secretly trying to make us fat. The problem, of course, is that trans fats ARE making us fat, even if they cut costs and keep prices low.

The local government will vote on this issue in December. Hopefully, it will pass. Sure it will mean the cost of things will increase, from fast food restaurants to local diners, but I’d rather pay a dollar more for something now than whatever it costs to pay for a heart attack later, wouldn’t you?

It would be interesting to know if any other cities or states are undertaking bans on trans fats. Do you live in such a city? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Author by Jennifer Jordan