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Albany County Announces Plan to Phase Out Trans Fat from Restaurants

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County Department of Health to Facilitate Implementation

August 8, 2008 — The County Department of Health announced today an initiative to make eating out healthier in Albany County. The use of artificial trans fats in local restaurants and other food service establishments in Albany County will be eliminated in 2009.

Artificial trans fat increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and death by increasing LDL "bad" cholesterol and decreasing HDL "good" cholesterol. It is manufactured through a chemical process and is found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Foods that contain artificial trans fat include margarines, shortenings and fry oils as well as many baked goods, mixes and packaged goods.

"We are pleased to work with the food service establishments and restaurant owners in Albany County to ensure that our residents are eating healthier," said County Executive Mike Breslin. "The County Department of Health is a resource that can provide information on how to replace or eliminate artificial trans fats."

"Research has shown a link between artificial trans fat consumption and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in Albany County and New York State. This trans fat restriction in restaurants is one effort, among other public health approaches, that can help to improve the health of our residents," said Health Commissioner James Crucetti, MD MPH.

Majority Leader Frank J. Commisso, who sponsored the resolution in the Legislature that led to the restrictions, acknowledged that a number of restaurants and food establishments already have reduced or eliminated artificial trans fat. "Now, diners can be assured that when they walk into any restaurant or fast food chain in Albany County, the food they order will be free of artificial trans fat.

"With this amendment to the County's Sanitary Code, we're simply saying that we know artificial trans fat clogs arteries and contributes to heart disease and strokes, so let's do what we can to serve healthy meals to our residents," Commisso said.  "It's an unnecessary and dangerous ingredient in food and can easily be replaced with heart-healthy oils such as corn or canola without changing the taste." Commisso thanked Dr. Crucetti and the Board of Health for their work to implement the restrictions.

The two-phase initiative restricts the use of oils that contain certain artificial trans fats and requires the substitution to oils that are free of trans fat. Food service establishments must restrict the use of artificial trans fat in oils, shortenings and margarines that are used in deep frying or spreads by January 1, 2009. Artificial trans fat used in baked goods will be restricted as of July 1, 2009.

Dr. Harold Sokol, President of the Board of Health, whose wife Gail is a chef and assisted the health department with research into this resolution, said, "Since numerous affordable alternatives to trans fat are available, the Board of Health believed that this measure will improve health without impacting food quality, taste, or cost.  Believe me, I've been a willing taste-tester of substitute fat recipes prepared by Chef Gail for quite awhile and I can personally attest that there is no difference!"

The Department of Health Division of Environmental Health will work collaboratively with food service establishments to help them become compliant with the regulation. The Department of Health may assess fines up to $1,000 for non-compliance.

"The health department's action will provide important health protection for diners in Albany County.  Trans fat is a uniquely harmful fat and, fortunately, easily replaced by healthier fats. I hope today's action will make it easier for the New York legislature to pass its own ban and protect consumers state-wide," Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Additional information about the initiative is available at here. On the website, food service establishments can find helpful information to comply with the new regulation, including details about artificial trans fat in food and frequently asked questions. Food service establishments can contact the Department of Health at (518) 447-4585 or with additional questions.