New York City restaurants to be trans fat free by next month

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 25th June 2008

In a week, New York City restaurants will finish the job of eliminating artificial trans fat from the food they serve.

The final phase of the City’s trans fat regulation takes effect on 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. Only 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.

Trans fats have come under fire from health group in the last few years as their potential cholesterol heightening properties are of great concern. As a result, major American restaurant chains, such as Burger King and McDonald’s, have already begun eliminating the fats from all their US stores. New York restaurants have also embraced the challenge of improving the health of their food, with the impact on food taste and businesses reportedly negligible.

“I made the transition seven months ago,” said Saul Haye, owner of Christie’s Jamaican Patties in Brooklyn. “Cooking my patties and baked goods with replacement shortenings hasn’t hurt the products or my business, and it’s healthier for my customers.”

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 iconthe old versions made with artificial trans fat.”

The trans fat requirements are one element of New York City’s more stringent plan to help reduce obesity levels. They have also approved new rules for large restaurant chains to provide calorie counts on their menus, although these laws are currently being challenged by the National Restaurant Association.