Trans-fats, A Global Issue !

Trans-fats, A Global Issue !

California, a national trendsetter in all matters edible, became the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a Bill on Friday to phase out their use.

Under the new law, trans fats, long linked to health problems, must be excised from restaurant products beginning in 2010, and from all retail baked goods by 2011. Packaged foods will be exempt.

New York City adopted a similar ban in 2006— it became fully effective on July 1 — and Philadelphia, Stamford, Connecticut, and Montgomery County, Maryland, have done so aswell.

But having the requirement imposed on the most populous state’s 88,000 restaurants, as well as its bakeries and other food purveyors, is a major gain for the movement against trans fats. That movement has been led by scientists, doctors and consumer advocates who trace the largely synthetic fat to a variety of ailments, principally heart disease.

“I think the potential here is real for a far greater understanding of the harms of trans fats, and to encourage more states to do the same,” Dr Clyde Yancy, incoming president of the American Heart Association, said of the California law’s enactment.

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into liquid oil at high temperature, a process called partial hydrogenation. The process results in an inexpensive fat that prolongs the shelf life and appearance of packaged foods and that, many fastfood restaurants say, withstands high temperature in cooking and makes the food crisp and flavourful.

But trans fats have repeatedly been found in scientific studies to increase low-density lipoproteins— the “ bad” cholesterol, high levels of which contribute to the onset of heart disease, California’s leading cause of death.

Yancy said that a 2 per cent increase in trans-fat intake could result over time in a 25 per cent increase in the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease. “These are data we are just now beginning to understand,” he said. “It is pretty clear now that it was a mistake for us to embrace these fats.”

Under the new law, restaurants, bakeries, delicatessens, cafeterias and all businesses classified as “food facilities” will, in the preparation of any foods, have to discontinue use of oils, margarine and shortening containing trans fats.

Those purveyors will have to keep the labels on their cooking products so that the products can be inspected for trans fat, a process that will become part of the duties of local health inspectors. Violators will face fines beginning at $25 and increasing to as much as $1,000 for subsequent violations.

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