Food and Behaviour Research

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New York to trans fats: you're out!

Okie S. (2007) N Engl J Med.  356(20): 2017-21. 

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Abstract:

This article has no abstract, but the introductory paragraph is reproduced here.  Free full text of this article is available from the New England Journal of Medicine website here.

Ferrara Café in Manhattan's Little Italy is a century-old bakery steeped in tradition, but executive pastry chef Dennis Canciello has recently been tinkering with the recipes of two of the café's signature pastries: cheesecake and cannoli. Like other cooks in the city's restaurants, bakeries, and fast-food outlets, Canciello faces an impending deadline for conforming to an unusual mandate from the New York City Board of Health. Beginning July 1, 2007, most foods prepared in the city's 22,000 restaurants will no longer be permitted to contain more than half a gram per serving of artificial trans fats — a type of fat, found chiefly in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils used for frying and baking, in shortenings, and in margarines, that has more unhealthy effects on blood lipids than any other kind.

Bakers, as well as purveyors of deep-fried cake or dough products such as doughnuts, for whom finding a suitable alternative is particularly challenging, have until July 1, 2008, to stop using such ingredients. Faced with predictions that banishing artificial trans fats from restaurant foods would reduce the rate of heart attacks and save the lives of several hundred New Yorkers annually, the powerful board of health voted unanimously last December to eliminate what health commissioner Thomas Frieden calls a “hazardous substance” from the city's cuisine.

“The sweet spot of public health,” Frieden told me, “is when you do something that makes the default setting a healthy choice.”