Restaurants nervous about New York City’s proposed trans fat ban could get a few breaks such as extended deadlines and other revisions when health officials vote on the measure next month, the city’s top health official said Wednesday.
Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said the city has been sifting through hundreds of public comments _ some from alarmed fast food chains and industry representatives _ and is considering some changes to the proposal that would make New York the first U.S. city to outlaw the harmful man-made ingredient.
Frieden said officials are giving serious attention to complaints that the timeline is unrealistic, especially for national restaurant chains. The original proposal gives eateries six months to replace their cooking oils and shortening and 18 months to eliminate trans fats altogether.
Trans fatty acids (commonly termed trans fats) are a type of unsaturated fat (and may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated).
Trans fats occur naturally, in small quantities, in meat and dairy products from ruminants. Most trans fats consumed today, however, are industrially created through partial hydrogenation of plant oils and animal fats ? a chemical process developed in the early 1900s and first commercialized as Crisco in 1911.
Unlike other fats, trans fats are neither required nor beneficial for health. Eating trans fat increases the risk of coronary heart disease. For these reasons, health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts. Trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are generally considered to be worse than those occurring naturally.
Trans fats are increasingly being linked to chronic health conditions (see below), are tightly regulated in a few countries, are mandatory on product labels in many others, and are the central issue in several ongoing lawsuits (particularly against fast food outlets). Many companies are voluntarily removing trans fats from their products, or establishing trans-free product lines.
Chemically, trans fats are made of the same building blocks as non-trans fats, but have a different shape. In trans fat molecules, the double bonds between carbon atoms (characteristic of all unsaturated fats) are in the trans rather than the cis configuration, resulting in a more straight rather than a kinked shape. As a result, trans fats are less fluid and have a higher melting point than the equivalent cis fats.