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F.ood & H.ealth : & P.olitics Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

New York City wants to ban artery clogging trans fat
By Ben Wasserman
Sep 27, 2006, 10:55

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New York City's Health Department Tuesday announced a ban on use of trans fat at restaurants, ABC News reported.

The ban is not to completely forbid use of trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving is still allowed.

A voluntary ban has already been in place, but it does not work. The majority of 20,000 restaurants fail to control their use of trans fat. According to ABC News, one meal prepared at restaurants may contain 10 grams of trans fat.

The health officials propose the ban in an effort to curb the obesity epidemic and other diseases implicated by trans fat.

"Trans fat causes heart disease. Like lead in paint, artificial trans fat in food is invisible and dangerous, and it can be replaced," Reuters cited New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden as saying in a statement.

According to a statement issued by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), some restraurants such as Wendy's, Chili's and Ruby have adopted healthier vegetables oil blends to replace tras fat making their french fries trans fat free.

CSPI says restaurants have been much slower to get rid of partially hydrogenated oils than food manufacturers which have reformulated many food products that used to include significant amounts of trans fat.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Oct. 30. A vote is expected in December.

In Chicago, city officials are also campaigning for a voluntary ban on use of trans fat, similar to the one that failed in New York City.

Trans fat is widely used in processed food ranging from margarine, fast food, cookies, cakes and pastry. The artificial trans fat is used to replace saturated fat, which has been known to raise bad cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease for a number of decades.

It turns out that trans fat has a much worse effect on cholesterol and the heart. It not only raises bad cholesterol, but cuts the good cholesterol as well.

Nutritionists and epidemiologists at Harvard Medical School said trans fat could kill up to 100,000 Americans a year. They said there is no safe threshold for trans fat and suggested consumers should avoid as much as they can.

The Food and Drug Administration has said consumers should not completely avoid trans fat because doing so would limit consumers' selection of foods causing nutrition-imbalance.

The federal agency recommends daily intake of trans fat be limited below 2 grams, although there is no scientific evidence to suggest consumption of 2 grams of trans fat a day is safe.

Starting Jan. 1, 2006, the FDA requires that the food industry label trans fat on food packaging. However, the FDA allows food manufacturers to label zero trans fat when trans fat in a food is below 0.5 grams per serving.

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