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March 24, 2010 > Trans fat banned in California restaurants

Trans fat banned in California restaurants

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell and Lingxia Meng

Many restaurants and residents in Santa Clara County may not be aware of Assembly Bill 97 (AB 97) although it has been in effect since January 1, 2010. AB 97 bans the use of trans fat in California restaurants and imposes a fine ranging from $25 - $1,000 for violations. AB 97 will also ban trans fat from baked goods on January 1, 2011. County Environmental Health staff is providing free training during their routine inspections to restaurant owners to ensure they understand this new law.

"AB 97 is an important step in eliminating trans fat in our diet," said Supervisor Ken Yeager, President of the Board of Supervisors. "Trans fat poses great danger to people's health but it can be replaced with widely available heart-healthy oils without changing the taste of foods."

Artificial trans fats are commonly found in commercial fry oils, vegetable shortening, margarine, cake mix, muffin mix, French fries and doughnuts. The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. Leading health organizations, including the American Heart Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization and the US Department of Health and Human Services, have recommended people strictly limit or eliminate consumption of trans fats.

"There is no safe level of artificial trans fats in our diets," said Ben Gale, Director of Environmental Health Department. "I encourage consumers to check the nutrition facts panel on the packaging of food products they buy."

The trans fat ban does not apply to any food sold in a manufacturer's original sealed package. Consumers are recommended to look for the following terms on the nutrition facts panels: shortening, margarine, and partially hydrogenated oil as these ingredients may indicate the use of trans fat.

"Now that medical research shows how detrimental trans fat can be to health and the legislation has banned its use," said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith, also a medical doctor. "We want to make sure that restaurants in Santa Clara County are in compliance."


History of Artificial Trans Fat

Trans fat is the short term for Trans-Isomer Fatty Acid. The history of artificial trans fat traces back to 1902 when Wilhelm Norman patented a method of solidifying vegetable oil known as hydrogenation. In 1911, Proctor & Gamble acquired U.S. rights to Norman's Patent and began producing Crisco. In 1988, the first medical study was published linking trans fat to coronary heart disease.

The City of New York banned trans fat in restaurants in December 2006 and became the first city nationwide that adopted a policy of this kind. Since then, many state and local governments have posted similar bans on the use of trans fat.



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