The New York City Board of Health recently adopted the country’s first major municipal ban on the use of artificial trans fats in city restaurants, a move applauded by health experts and denounced by restaurant owners. Other cities, including Chicago, are considering a similar ban.
City restaurants in the Big Apple have until July 1 of this year to eliminate the artificial fats (in the form of oils, margarines and shortenings) from any foods that contain more than half a gram of trans fat per serving size.
Trans fats are chemically engineered ingredients added to many processed foods—such as baked and fried goods, salad dressings and margarine—as a substitute for saturated fats. Once considered safe, trans fats have recently been linked to heightened cholesterol levels and heart disease.
The New York City ban on trans fats applies only to restaurant foods, not grocery products. It is also restricted to those trans fats that are artificial in nature, as some foods (e.g., dairy products and meat) contain naturally occurring trans fats.
In a separate measure, the New York City Board of Health recently approved the first menu labeling requirement in the nation. This new measure stipulates that certain city restaurants, mostly fast-food outlets, prominently display the caloric content of all menu items either on a menu board or near cash registers. The new law, which takes effect March 1, will affect about 1 in every 10 city restaurants.