As reported yesterday, the New York City Board of Health is considering a citywide ban on the sale of restaurant food made with trans fats.

The proposal would bar cooks at the city’s 24,600 foodservice establishments from using ingredients that contain the artery-clogging substance, commonly listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil.

Needless to say, the restaurant industry isn’t pleased with the idea, contending that it would ban a legal ingredient found in millions of American kitchens. But many experts believe this is great news for those committed to organic living and eating well, not to mention the public at large.

“Trans fat is found in foods such as vegetable shortening, margarine, pie crusts and kosher baked products labeled ‘pareve.’ It is used because it imparts the flaky texture that is desirable in many baked goods and is often used for deep frying because it is shelf-stable without needing refrigeration,” explains dietitian Andrea Boyar, PhD, chair of the Department of Health Sciences at Lehman College in Bronx, NY. “But the problem with trans fat is that it raises LDL, or bad cholesterol, and lowers HDL, or good cholesterol. It is also considered to be a pro-inflammatory molecule that can raise the risk of heart disease. So, as a nutritionist, I feel this is a bold, forward-thinking prohibition that will benefit the millions of New York City restaurant patrons.”

Others, however, fear the ban could lead to worse alternatives.

“We need to educate the public about these fats and make sure that a label is placed on all foods that contain any amount of trans fats,” says Mary Ellen Renna, MD, founder and president of Next Generation Fitness. “[But] have we banned the use of tobacco? Have we stopped making soda? We are aware of the problems that come with consuming these foods or smoking. If we completely ban the use of these fats, chances are some chemically altered new product will replace it, and it will take years before we identify the harmful effect it has on humans. For now, we know the enemy, so we know how to avoid it—just make sure all products label trans fats as they would if they contained peanuts in this highly peanut-allergy world.”

Let us know what you think.

Suggested Reading
The War on Trans Fats (Part 1)
New Nutrition Labels Highlight Trans Fat
Fat Tips for Heart Health