No place for trans fats in the 'Big Apple'

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The New York City Board of Health has unveiled a proposal prohibiting the city's 20,000 restaurants from serving foods that contain trans fats, just three years after the city banned smoking in restaurants.

The board has the authority to impose the ban without the consent of any other agency, but says it will consider any written public comments on the proposal and conduct a public hearing on October 30, before taking a final vote in December.

The proposal means restaurants would need to remove artificial trans fats out of cooking oils, margarine and shortening by July 1, 2007, and all other foodstuffs by July 1, 2008.

The proposal would not affect grocery stores and would not apply to naturally occurring trans fats, which are found in some meats and dairy.

If the proposal is adopted, New York City will become the first large city in the U.S. to ban trans fats.

Artificial trans fats are chemically modified ingredients which are toxic and are thought by doctors and nutritionists to increase the risk of heart disease.

They are considered to be the most dangerous form of fats.

Trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil to increase the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats.

Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, biscuits, snack foods, pie crusts, french fries, doughnuts and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

Unlike other fats, the majority of trans fat is formed when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine.

A small amount of trans fat is found naturally, primarily in dairy products, some meat, and other animal-based foods.

Trans fat, like saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, raises the LDL cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease.

The measure would affect the city's entire restaurant industry, and has been met with immediate resistance from restaurant owners.

Members of the Board of Health have voted unanimously for the ban because of the city's high rates of heart disease, saying New York could be a role model for the nation.

New Yorkers consume far more restaurant meals and take-out food than most Americans.

The proposal comes a year after the Board of Health conducted a campaign to persuade restaurants to voluntarily eliminate trans fats which proved to have little effect.

Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, who has compared the proposed prohibition, to the city's ban on the use of lead paint, which it enacted in 1960, years before much of the country followed suit.

Frieden says New Yorkers are consuming a hazardous, artificial substance without their knowledge or consent.

Some companies have already made efforts to eliminate trans fats; Wendy's announced in August that it had switched to a new cooking oil that contains no trans fatty acids, Crisco now has a shortening that contains no trans fats, Frito-Lay has eliminated trans fats from its Doritos and Cheetos, and Kraft has taken the trans fats out of Oreos.

In Denmark which has a complete ban on artificial trans fats, McDonald's is now using a trans fat-free cooking oil but has yet to do so in the U.S.

In January this year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring food labels to list trans fats.

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