The final stages of plan to ban trans-fat laden foods from New York's restaurant menus went into full swing on Tuesday, as the city vies to make food more heart-friendly for its nearly 10 million residents.
This regulation is so important for the city to take on because anyone can go into a store and make a decision as to whether they want to consume artificial transfat by looking at the content on the label, said Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the cardiovascular program in New York. That is not possible or practical in a restaurant environment.
The first phase, which was implemented last year, banned restaurants from using frying oils and spreads containing trans fats. The new regulation will now cover previously excluded items such as baked goods, frozen foods, and doughnuts as well.
The New York City department of health now requires all foods served, including baked goods, oils, shortenings and margarines used for baking, and pre-made items that contain artificial substance to have less that 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Packaged foods like candy and crackers are still exempt from the regulation.
City health commissioner Thomas Frieden, who launched the anti-trans fat initiative, said his department had heard relatively few complaints so far from frustrated chefs.
Restaurants and bakeries will be given a three month grace period to comply before facing a $2,000 fine as of October 1.
Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat that's made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil to give it a higher melting point and artificially extends a products shelf life.
Transfat confer absolutely no health benefits, there is no role for them in the food supply, they're dangerous and totally irreplaceable, making it the key reason why it's possible to eliminate them completely and make the same tasting products just by using products that don't contain artificial transfat, Dr. Angell said.
In 2006, almost 20,000 people died in New York from coronary heart disease which is associated with artificial transfat specifically.
Not all deaths are connected to transfat, but we know it's not the only factor to blame as it could be from smoking, cholesterol, genetic and so on, but the content of transfat is something that we can control, Dr. Angel added.
Laura Stanley, Coordinator of the Trans Fat Help Center said in many cases, bakers don't need to switch brands, but need to instead order new formulations of familiar products.
We found that some of these products actually worked better than the old versions made with artificial trans fat, Stanley said.
Popular franchises like Dunkin Donuts eliminated trans fats from its doughnuts in October, months ahead of the deadline for frying oils. The company began experimenting with replacement oil in 2003 and tested 28 different substitutes, sometimes with disastrous results, before choosing a new blend of palm, soybean and cottonseed oil.
Dunkin Donuts sold 50 million trial doughnuts in secret, to see how customers would react, before announcing it had made the switch. The company said customers didn't notice the change.
From a health perspective, the ban has not been completely successful, however.
Many chefs have simply turned to products high in saturated fats, such as palm oil, that appear to be just as harmful as trans fats. Health campaigners hope that a new generation of improved low-cholesterol oils might lead bakers to switch once again.
The rest of the country should follow the regulation; Americans need to be more aware. There is just no words to express the junk people in our country are eating, said Damien DePaoulis from Milk & Cookies Bakery in New York.
On the Net:
Food service professionals can access information on the regulation, trans fat alternatives, guidance on cooking without trans fat and classes for restaurant operators at notransfatnyc.org.