SACRAMENTO (AP) - California on Friday became the first state to
prohibit restaurants from using artery-clogging trans fats in preparing their food.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will ban restaurants and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fats.
In a statement, Schwarzenegger noted that consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease.
"Today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California," he said.
Violations could result in fines of $25 to $1,000. Food items sold in their manufacturers' sealed packaging would be exempt.
The bill's author, Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, said he hoped the legislation would lead to similar laws in other states.
New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Montgomery County, Md., have ordinances banning trans fats, but California is the first state to adopt such a law covering restaurants, said Amy Wintefeld, a health policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
California and Oregon already have laws banning trans fats in meals served at schools, she added.
The legislation signed by Schwarzenegger will take effect Jan, 1, 2010, for oil, shortening and margarine used in spreads or for frying. Restaurants could continue using trans fats to deep fry yeast dough and in cake batter until Jan. 1, 2011.
Richard Garcia, a spokesman for Mendoza, said the delay would give restaurants more time to find trans fat-free margarine and shortening used in baked goods.
Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products. Most trans fats are created when vegetable oil is treated with hydrogen to create baked and fried goods with a longer shelf life.
Stephen Joseph, a Tiburon attorney who was a consultant to New York City in developing its ban, said trans fat is a larger health risk than saturated fat because it reduces so-called good cholesterol.
The California Restaurant Association opposed the Mendoza bill. Spokesman Daniel Conway said the federal Food and Drug Administration rather than individual states should be developing
regulations on trans fat use.
"They are the entity that is supposed to analyze ingredients," he said. "It's kind of troubling having these decisions made by (state) policy makers when we have these experts in government."
He said the association has no plans to challenge the law, in part because restaurants already are phasing out trans fats to satisfy customers.
"We're confident that California restaurants can meet the mandates of the bill," he said.
The bill was introduced by Mendoza in December 2006 and passed the Assembly last year. It stalled initially in the state Senate but was approved there earlier this month.
On the Net:
Read the bill, AB97, at www.assembly.ca.gov and
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)