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Restaurants get jump on trans fat bill

July 28, 2008|By Alison Tully

BURBANK — Local eateries have gotten a head start complying with a bill passed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday that will ban trans fats in restaurants statewide by 2010.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, also calls for the removal of trans fats from all baked goods by 2011.

Although restaurants have time to meet the new regulations, several Burbank establishments have already switched to trans fat-free products.

“We transitioned a year ago, we felt that we needed to do it because we use oil for our fries and a butter-flavored oil to toast our buns with,” said Scott Blakeman, general manager of Islands Restaurant. “With increased consumer awareness it is important thing to do, it is not uncommon anymore for people to ask what kind of oil is used.”

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Barragan’s Mexican Restaurant phased out trans fats a year ago after hearing concerns from their customers, owner Rose Barragan said.

“People want to eat healthy, so we eliminated them from our menu for health reasons,” Barragan said.

Trans fats are typically found in vegetable shortenings, cookies, crackers, or foods cooked with partially hydrogenated oils, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report.

Scientific evidence shows that consumption of trans fats can raise cholesterol levels that increase the chance of coronary heart disease, according to the report.

“Obesity rates have been rising steadily in the western world and one of the culprits has been identified as trans fats,” said Dr. Philippe J. Quilici, medical director of bariatrics and minimally invasive surgery at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. “If you study obesity over the past 50 years and look at the introduction of trans fats in the American diet, there is a significant parallel to the rapid increase of obesity.”

Despite the potential health benefits of the new law, some local restaurant owners are concerned about its overall effects on the food service industry.

“This could potentially hurt a lot of businesses, especially if you get your food from a distributor which makes your food taste good and they happen to have trans fats,” said Gene LoGuercio, owner of Chili John’s. “If the taste changes, that business could lose its customers.”

Although the California Restaurant Association was opposed to the bill, staff is confident that restaurants will be able to meet the mandate, said Daniel Conway, spokesman for the association.

“We feel philosophically that this is something that should be done state by state, but instead, be implemented by federal authorities such as the FDA,” he said. “There are a lot of other substances besides trans fats that are not banned and that are linked to heart problems.”


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