California Bans Trans Fat
Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, signed a bill this July banning trans fats-- which have been linked to various health problems-- in the state's restaurants and elsewhere. They must be expunged from restaurant menus and retail baked goods by 2010 and -11, respectively. New York City, Philadelphia, and cities in Maryland and Connecticut have also banned this type of synthetic fat. However, this legislation in California-- the most heavily populated state, with over 88,000 restaurants-- marks a significant gain for the anti-trans fats movement, which will likely spread to other states.
Trans fats are the result of partial hydrogenation-- the pumping of hydrogen into liquid oil at high temperatures-- resulting in inexpensive fat that prolongs the shelf-life of packaged foods and makes cooked food more crispy and flavorful, according to fast-food restaurateurs. You've heard about good and bad cholesterol, right? Well, according to studies these fats reduce good cholesterol and increase the bad, which contributes to the onset of heart disease. A mere two percent increase in trans fat consumption can result in a twenty-five percent increase in the probability of developing coronary artery disease. Furthermore, these fats are linked to obesity, an issue already prevalent in the U.S.
Effects of the Ban
Banning them may increase the costs of food for consumers at restaurants that have used them because there are fewer distributors of healthier oil alternatives. Many restaurants have already made the switch and, apparently, people aren't complaining. Trans fats aren't (and weren't) to be found in California's upscale restaurants; the state has been the starting place for many dietary trends (including organic foods), and many restaurants would sooner serve their meals on paper plates with sporks than use these controversial ingredients. Despite the undisputed health detriments, some people, including many policy makers, see the ban as overbearing-- similar to the whirlwind around cigarettes. They feel that people should be able to decide what to eat by themselves if they know the risks they're taking and that there need be no laws to dictate people's eating habits. Most people eating fast-food aren't terribly concerned with their health. Still, California moves forward with it's dietary agenda (junk food and trans fats were already pulled from school meals) hoping to reduce coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the state and the nation.