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Thursday 27th October 2016

California bans trans fats

28th July 2008

California has banned partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, also known as trans fats, from restaurants and food retail outlets.


The state has followed the lead of New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle, but is the first US state to ban products using trans fats, which are used to extend the shelf-life of pastries, cakes, margarine and some fast foods.

The new legislation will take effect in 2010, and carry fines of between US$25 (£13) and US$1,000 (£502) for anyone found violating the new rules.

Trans fats are linked to coronary heart disease, and governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has called the new law a "strong step toward creating a healthier future".

Since the three city-wide bans came into effect, the food industry has been experimenting with replacements for oils and foods that contain them.

Trans fats can be used in fried or baked products, or put into processed food, drinks like hot chocolate and ready-made cake mixes.

Apart from extending the shelf-life of foods, they add bulk without any additional taste, and are cheap, but research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 has shown that even a small reduction in their consumption can cut the risk of heart disease.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, Americans eat an estimated 2.41 kg of trans fats every year. The substances can also raise levels of "bad" cholesterol.

According to the 2006 review, eliminating artificial trans fats from the food supply could prevent between six and 19% of heart attacks and related deaths each year.

The legislation signed by Schwarzenegger will ban, from 1 January 2010, the use of trans fats in oil, shortening and margarine used in spreads or for frying.

Doctors say that, as with smoking, there is no safe level of consumption of trans fats.

Restaurateurs were against the ban, but were likely to comply in order to keep their customers happy, and no legal challenge was likely.


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