On July 26, California became the first state to enact legislation banning the use and sale of products containing artificial trans fat at all food facilities except public school cafeterias. Under the law, artificial trans fats must be eliminated from commercial oils and spreads by the beginning of 2010 and from all other products that aren't prepackaged by 2011.
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, California will not allow shortenings made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to be used for frying or spreads in food facilities starting on January 1, 2010. By January 1, 2011, 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.
A similar ban went into effect last month in New York City, and Philadelphia expects to implement the final phase of its ban on all artificial trans fats on September 1.
Although naturally occurring trans fat is not included in the ban, the legislation is raising questions among 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 has prepared a fact sheet on trans fat that can be used with customers or to answer consumer inquiries. Click here to read the fact sheet.
For more information, contact Frye at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-220-3543.