California Bans Trans Fats
SACRAMENTO, California, July 25, 2008 (ENS) - As of 2010, no California restaurant will be able to serve foods containing a harmful form of fats called trans fats, under a bill signed into law today by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Baked goods containing trans fats will be banned in California as of 2011.

With this law, California became the first state in the nation to phase out the use of trans fats. In 2004, the 18 restaurants in the Bay Area town of Tiburon voluntarily stopped using trans fats in their cooking oils, making it the first American city to go trans fat-free.

New York City followed suit with a trans fat ban that began on July 1, 2008 with a three month grace period.

"California is a leader in promoting health and nutrition, and I am pleased to continue that tradition by being the first state in the nation to phase out trans fats," Governor Schwarzenegger said today. "Consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease, and today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California."

The governor signed bill AB 97 authored by Assemblymember Tony Mendoza, a Norwalk Democrat.

"This is more than just legislation this is a call to action that takes into consideration the health of our families," said Mendoza. "We are taking a risk when we consume food and products that contain trans fats; this is an invisible and dangerous ingredient that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure - it had to be eliminated."

The type of fat these potatoes are fried in makes all the difference to heart health. (Photo courtesy FryTest)

California businesses will have a window period to transition to healthy oils and products that are trans fat free or face fines that range from $25 to $1,000.

Trans unsaturated fatty acids, or trans fats, are solid fats produced by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of metal catalysts and hydrogen. If a product's list of ingredients contains the words "partially hydrogenated" the product contains trans fat.

Trans fats are produced commercially in large quantities to harden vegetable oils into shortening and margarine to help extend product shelf life.

Trans fats lower HDL (good) cholesterol and increase LDL (bad) cholesterol. They increase rigidity and clogging of arteries, cause insulin resistance, and contribute to Type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, eliminating artificial trans fats from the food supply could prevent between six and 19 percent of heart attacks and related deaths each year.

Coronary heart disease is California's leading cause of death, and AB 97 will be a strong step toward removing this harmful substance from the foods that Californians purchase and consume, said the governor.

Research conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that children who consume trans fats early in life will develop heart disease sooner than other children.

"Children who start at age three or four eating a steady diet of fast food, pop tarts, commercially prepared fish sticks, stick margarine, cake, candy, cookies and microwave popcorn can be expected to get heart disease earlier than kids who are eating foods without trans fats... Some of our research here at the University of Maryland has shown that kids as young as eight, nine and 10 already have the high cholesterol and blood fats that clog arteries. By starting healthy eating habits early, parents can help their children avoid heart attacks and stroke," said researcher Mary Beth Sodus.

According to the American Heart Association, trans fat should make up less than one percent of calories for Americans over two years old.

"Another major change in the dietary recommendations is a lower goal for saturated fat - from less than 10 percent to less than seven percent - and establishing a goal for trans fatty acids of less than one percent of total calories," the American Heart Association said in a 2006 statement.

The advocacy group Ban Trans Fats is declaring victory. The group started the move to ban the unhealthy fats with a lawsuit against Kraft Foods in 2003 to eliminate trans fat in Oreo cookies. As a result, Kraft eliminated trans fat from Oreos and reduced or eliminated it in about 650 other products.

Now several communities have jumped onto the ban trans fats bandwagon, including Philadelphia and Boston.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.