Big Brother is watching you in your local New York City restaurant.
In the final stages of a plan to eliminate all trans fat-containing food from restaurant menus, the plan goes into effect in NYC restaurants today.
A year ago, spreads and frying oils were cited as carriers of the saturated trans fat that contributes to high cholesterol and heart attacks, not to mention contributing to the high cost of health care.
Starting today, that ban extends to baked goods, frozen foods, and doughnuts. Foods that come in the original packaging remain exempt. The city health department will issue violations and a follow-up inspection will be conducted to see if the establishment is in compliance.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is careful to add that this is not an example of big government reaching into your plate.
"We're not trying to take away anybody's ability to go out and have the kind of food they want in the quantities they want, but we are trying to make that food safer. If we can do it without trans fats, you'll save . . . a couple of hundred lives a year in New York City,” he tells Newsday.
The ban reverses the decades-old trend of using the artificial man-made fat with no nutritional value by manufacturers, interested in keeping foods from spoiling on the shelves.
Trans fat increases bad LDL cholesterol and lowers good HDL cholesterol. Bad cholesterol might also be a factor in a decline in mental health, as an American Heart Association Journal study released today shows.
So far inspections have shown that 98 percent of restaurants, inspected last month, were in compliance. Even food chain restaurants have eliminated trans fats, as well as saturated fat by 20 percent up to 35 percent in some fried foods.
Consumers looking for guidance at the grocery store can choose to eliminate trans fats by avoiding products with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, shortenings, or margarines. Look at the Nutrition Facts label, usually on the side of the box, to see if the product contains any trans fats.
Since there is no health benefit to this chemically-produced product, how did they become the first man-made fat so widely used?
The American Heart Association uncovers the slippery slope of trans fats beginning with the discovery of the hydrogenation process that first introduced the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, Crisco, to American kitchens in 1911.
In the 1980’s, consumer groups began campaigning against using saturated fat for frying in fast-food restaurants. As an alternative, many began using partially hydrogenated oils containing trans fat instead.
Denmark is the only and first country that regulates trans fat on a national basis, capping the amount food may contain. In 2003, the FDA required that trans fats be listed on the Nutrition Facts label on food products.
Butter, lard, beef tallow and suet are naturally occurring highly saturated fats that are not covered by this regulation.
Other cities hoping to learn how NYC banned the trans fat can go to their Web site for guidance. #