Healthy move

Published: Tuesday 30 September 2008

california has become the first state in the us to ban trans-fats in food sold in restaurants and bakeries. Trans-fats, used to extend the shelf life of food products, have been linked to clogged arteries, diabetes, and other ailments.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law, according to which by January 1, 2010, California's restaurants are required to use margarines, oils and shortening containing less than half a gramme of trans-fats per serving, and standards for deep-fried bakery products are to be adopted by January 1, 2011. Violations could invite fines of us $25 to us $1,000. The law covers restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias and other businesses classified as "food facilities". These will have to label their cooking products so that health inspectors can check them for trans-fats. New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Montgomery County, Maryland, have ordinances banning trans-fats, but California is the first state to adopt such a law covering restaurants. California and Oregon already had laws banning trans-fats in meals served at schools.

The us Food and Drug Administration estimates that on average, Americans eat 4.7lb (2.14kg) of trans-fats each year. A review by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 estimated that eliminating artificial trans-fats from food supply could prevent 6 to 19 per cent cases of heart attacks and related deaths each year.

The president of the California Academy of Family Physicians, Jeffrey Luther, said the law "will be a tremendous benefit".The California Restaurant Association has opposed the bill, saying that the Food and Drug Administration rather than states be allowed to develop regulations on trans-fat use. But it has no plans to challenge the law.

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