California is striking a blow against obesity and heart disease: On Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill outlawing the use of trans fats in all restaurants and bakeries. The bill creates the first state-wide ban of trans fats, but follows the path set out by cities like New York City and Philadelphia, which have already evicted the substance from restaurants within city limits.
Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into liquid oil at high temperature, a process called partial hydrogenation. The process results in an inexpensive fat that prolongs the shelf life and appearance of packaged foods and that, many fast-food restaurants say, helps make cooked food crisp and flavorful [The New York Times]. The artificial fats have been shown to increase levels of “bad” cholesterol and decrease levels of “good” cholesterol, and are therefore linked to heart disease.
The new rule, which will take effect gradually in 2010 and 2011, will not stop the sale of popular foods like french fries and doughnuts, just change how they are cooked. “We’re not trying to outlaw chocolate here,” said Dr. Junaid Khan, an Oakland cardiac and thoracic surgeon and an American Heart Association spokesman, which lobbied heavily for the bill [San Jose Mercury News]. The bill will also not affect packaged foods sold in grocery stores.
Supporters of the new bill say that by banning trans fats in the 88,000 restaurants of the most populous state, they hope to start a larger trend. “As a former fourth-grade schoolteacher in East L.A., I saw firsthand the problems of obesity,” [Assemblyman Tony] Mendoza said Friday…. Mendoza said he hopes the law will inspire a nationwide rejection of trans fat. “It is catching on, ever since last year when we introduced (the bill). Now that it’s law in California, I think it’s really going to move” [San Francisco Chronicle].
Related Post: Trans Fats Banned in NYC Restaurants