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On December 5, 2006, the New York City Board of Health officially voted to ban trans fats from New York City food establishments and mobile food unit commissaries.

This vote makes New York City the first city to ban trans fats in the United States.

New York City has an estimated 24,000 food establishments and “cart” vendors who must eliminate the substance from their food preparations by July 2008. The primary reason for the ban is that trans fats have been linked to heart disease.

Sources: The New York City Department of Health, December 5, 2006

We asked Gerri French, MS, RD, CDE, for her perspective on the trans fat ban in New York City:

Only time will tell if there is a significant beneficial health effect from the ban on trans fats in New York City. It is very likely that this new ruling will be a national standard in the near future. If people begin or continue to regularly eat foods such as French fries because now they do not contain trans fats, the health benefits may be slim to none. In fact, some people might evaluate the trans fat-free foods as more “healthy” and “acceptable” and eat more of them, which will increase the rate of obesity in this country, correlating to more heart disease and diabetes.

The impact that this change will have on national food establishments such as McDonalds will be less drastic than on “mom and pop” shops and small vendors, because big companies have research and development departments that can experiment with substitute ingredients. Many franchise chain companies, such as KFC, Wendy’s, and Burger King, have already eliminated or reduced trans fats.

I believe consumers will notice only a slight difference because they are already accepting the new trans fat-free products that the food industry developed after the listing of trans fats on food labels was required in January 2006.

By the way, the Board of Health did give restaurants a minor break by relaxing the proposed deadline. Restaurants will now be barred from using most frying oils containing the fats by July 2007, but will have another year to eliminate them from all foods.

—Gerri French, MS, RD, CDE.

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