April 15th, 2011
Illinois takes step toward banning trans fats
Los Angeles Times
Illinois restaurants may soon have to find a way to cut artificial trans fats from French fries, onion rings, popcorn shrimp, pies, cakes and fried chicken.
Legislation that passed the Illinois House on Wednesday would ban artery-clogging trans fats in food served in restaurants, movie theaters, cafes and bakeries or sold in school vending machines, starting in 2013. School cafeterias would be affected in 2016. Most prepackaged food would not be covered.
If the Senate approves the bill and Gov. Pat Quinn signs it, Illinois will be only the second state to enact such a ban. The first was California.
“Health problems cost our state so much money, and if we can use prevention to keep people out of emergency rooms and keep them healthy, this is a step in that direction,” said sponsoring Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago.
The National Academy of Sciences says trans fats cannot be safely consumed in any amount.
Lynne Braun, a board member of the American Heart Association Metro Chicago, acknowledged that food choices are personal decisions and that some critics object to government interference.
“On the other hand, the government has to pay a big share of health care costs for residents of Illinois and the public in general,” said Braun, a nurse practitioner at Rush University Medical Center’s Heart and Vascular Institute. “Anything we can do to help prevent chronic diseases like coronary artery disease is very important.”
More than a dozen jurisdictions have enacted trans fat bans, including New York City. Around 50 restaurant chains have taken the fats off their menus nationally, and even global corporations such as Disney have done the same, the British Medical Journal reported.
Despite complaints, New York health officials said that about 90 percent of the city’s restaurants complied with the ban by November 2008, about two years after they began to phase it in.