The clock is ticking on trans fat in the Big Apple.
The nation’s most stringent trans fat ban goes into full effect in New York City this week. The ban extends to almost all prepared food in restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias, salad bars and food carts. There will be a three-month grace period before big fines are slapped on violators.
Trans fats are used in such foods as pie crusts, crackers and muffins, along with many items offered at fast-food restaurants.
But restaurants all over the city have been preparing for the ban, with chefs coming up with other ways to keep their products crispy and moist.
Despite the food preparation changes required by the trans fat ban, city health commissioner Thomas Frieden says his department has heard relatively few complaints so far from frustrated chefs.
The final phase of the City’s trans fat regulation takes effect July 1, requiring restaurants to clear artificial trans fat from all their menu items. When first implemented last year, the new standard applied only to fry oils and spreads. It will now cover previously excluded items such as baked goods, frozen foods, cannoli, and doughnuts as well. Foods served in the manufacturer’s original, sealed packaging, such as candy and crackers, are still exempt.
Acceptance of the first phase of the trans fat regulation has been very high, with more than 98% of inspected restaurants in compliance as of last month. Some food chains and cooking oil manufacturers have not only eliminated trans fat but also reduced saturated fat by 20% to 35% in certain fried foods, further boosting the health benefit for consumers.
In early June, the Trans Fat Help Center mailed brochures on baking without artificial trans fat to all 25,000 New York City food service establishments and to New York State food suppliers serving the city. Most large bakery suppliers will include the brochures with the orders they ship during July.
Since New York City passed the artificial trans fat regulation for restaurant food, new “0 grams” trans fat products have come on to the market, increasing the options for restaurant owners and bakers. “Chocolate chips, sprinkles and baking margarines are all now available without artificial trans fat,” said Laura Stanley, Coordinator of the Trans Fat Help Center. “In many cases, bakers don’t need to switch brands; they’ll simply order new formulations of familiar products. We found that some of these products actually worked better than the old versions made with artificial trans fat.”
The Health Department, with support from the American Heart Association, launched the Trans Fat Help Center at New York City College of Technology last year to help restaurants and other food service establishments switch from artificial trans fat to more healthful fats and oil. The Help Center continues to offer the following resources at no cost to restaurants:
Help Line: Restaurants can call 311 to reach the Trans Fat Help Line for information on the regulation and for advice from culinary experts on how to reformulate their products.
(Dov Gordon – YWN / WNBC)