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IDFA Helps Members Navigate Trans Fat Bans in NYC, Philadelphia

Apr 23, 2007

IDFA Helps Members Navigate Trans Fat Bans in NYC, Philadelphia

New York City and Philadelphia recently banned the use and sale of products containing artificial trans fat at all foodservice outlets holding city health department permits. With more cities across the nation considering similar legislation, IDFA is working with other food trade associations and state officials to clarify the intent of these bans and oppose calls for new labeling requirements for products containing trans fat.

Also known as trans fatty acids, trans fat occurs naturally in small amounts in some foods, including meat and dairy products. Preliminary research shows that naturally occurring trans fat may help to prevent heart disease and even provide protection against some types of cancer.

Most trans fat in the American diet, however, is artificial, formed when vegetable oils are modified through a process called hydrogenation. Medical experts agree that artificial trans fat raises LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels and increases the risk of heart disease.

Under the new legislation, New York City will not allow shortenings made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to be used for frying or spreads in foodservice starting on July 1. By July 1, 2008, foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, shortening or margarine will not be permitted to have more than 0.5 grams of artificial trans fat per serving.

Although naturally occurring trans fat is not included in the ban, the New York City legislation is raising questions and problems for some dairy processors.

"While the law is intended to permit naturally occurring trans fat in dairy foods and ban foods with artificial trans fat, it is unclear how to treat products that contain a mixture of both natural and artificial trans fat," explained Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs. "Products like ice cream containing cookie and cake pieces or a cheeseburger made with a bun that contains hydrogenated oil as an ingredient fall into the mixed category."

IDFA plans to seek clarification on allowable mixed amounts under the current legislation.

In addition, one large restaurant chain has decided to prohibit the sale of foods with any amount of trans fat - both artificial and naturally occurring.

Working with the National Restaurant Association and other trade groups, IDFA is exploring ways to educate restaurant chains on the differences between artificial and naturally occurring trans fat and to keep this kind of prohibition from growing.

In Pennsylvania, Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) have asked the Food and Drug Administration to require two separate lines on product labels: one for artificial trans fat and another for naturally occurring trans fat. IDFA does not support the request for dual labeling, because it would mean expensive and unnecessary changes for processors.

IDFA has prepared a fact sheet on trans fat that can be used with customers or to answer consumer inquiries. Members can click here to read the fact sheet.

For more information on the New York City ban and compliance, click here to read "Regulation to Phase Out Artificial Trans Fat In New York City Food Service Establishments."

To track the status of individual state legislation, click here to visit the National Restaurant Association's website.

For more information, contact Frye at or 202-220-3543.

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Posted April 23, 2007

Dairy Delivers