Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American Medical Association Changes Its Policy, and Now Supports Trans Fat Ban

The American Medical Association will support legislation to ban the use of artificial trans fats in restaurants and bakeries nationwide. "By supporting a ban on the use of artificial trans fats in restaurants and bakeries, we can help improve the quality of the food Americans eat and may ultimately save lives," said Mary Anne McCaffree, M.D., A.M.A. board member.

Previous A.M.A. policy urged reductions in trans fats use (not an actual ban) and encouraged replacing trans fats with healthier fats and oils. Cities such as Chicago and New York already have banned trans fats in restaurants and bakeries.

California passed legislation to ban trans fats in restaurants this July. Under the new law, trans fats must be excised from restaurant products beginning in 2010, and from all retail baked goods by 2011. Packaged foods will be exempt.

New York City adopted a similar ban in 2006 , effective July 1, 2008. Philadelphia, Stamford, Conn., and Montgomery County, Md., have passed similar bans. Boston banned trans fats earlier this year. The Boston prohibition includes all restaurants, including school and hospital cafeterias, as well as food that is prepared in kitchens inside groceries and delis.

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.

Opposition to the bans comes largely from national and state restaurant associations that argue legislative bans of trans fat should be addressed by the federal government, not at state and local levels.

California also bans trans fats in school meals.

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