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.
New York City made another attempt to improve the health of its citizens yesterday, as a ban on trans fats in the city’s restaurants, cafeterias, and even hot dog and pretzel stands took full effect. Trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, is linked to clogged arteries and heart disease. But restaurants have found many uses for the man-made vegetable shortenings and oils, which give pastry its flakiness and french fries their crispiness.
It’s the first such ban by a major U.S. city, and most give credit for the idea to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been on a health crusade during his tenure in office. He banned smoking in bars and restaurants during his first term…. New York restaurant chains were recently ordered to start listing calorie information on their menus [Telegraph]. The first phase of the trans fat ban took effect last year, when restaurants were ordered to stop using them in cooking oils and spreads. Now, after a short grace period, any restaurant found using any trans fats will be fined up to $2,000.