News

California is first state to ban trans fats in eateries

California on Friday became the first state to prohibit restaurants from using artery-clogging trans fats in preparing their food.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will ban restaurants and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fats.

In a statement, Schwarzenegger noted that consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease.

“Today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California,” he said.

Violations could result in fines of $25 to $1,000. Food items sold in their manufacturers' sealed packaging would be exempt.

New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Montgomery County, Md., have ordinances banning trans fats, but California is the first state to adopt such a law covering restaurants, said Amy Wintefeld, a health policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California and Oregon had laws banning trans fats in school meals, she said.

The legislation signed by Schwarzenegger will take effect Jan. 1, 2010, for oil, shortening and margarine used in spreads or for frying. Restaurants could continue using trans fats to deep-fry yeast dough and in cake batter until Jan. 1, 2011.

Stephen Joseph, a Tiburon attorney who was a consultant to New York in developing its ban, said trans fat is a larger health risk than saturated fat because it reduces so-called good cholesterol.

The California Restaurant Association opposed the bill. Spokesman Daniel Conway said the federal Food and Drug Administration rather than states should be developing regulations on trans fat use.

  Comments