BOSTON -- The board of the Boston Public Health Commission today approved a regulation that restricts all food service establishments from serving food or beverage containing artificial trans fat or partially hydrogenated oil that raises the risk of heart disease.The ban will take effect in two phases, beginning September 13, 2008.
“This is a significant step forward in making Boston one of the healthiest cities in America,’’ said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, a key proponent of the ban. “There are no health benefits to trans fat. And by taking this action our public health board has performed a tremendous service to the residents and visitors of our city.’’
With the board’s unanimous decision, Boston joins a growing list of local governments that have approved trans fat bans, including Brookline, Mass.; New York; Philadelphia; Montgomery County, Md.; King County, WA; and Nassau County, N.Y.
Dr. Paula Johnson, a cardiologist who chairs the Commission’s public health board, said Boston officials would make every effort to educate the public and work with businesses to provide them with the information and technical support they may need to comply with the ban.
“There are no health benefits and no level of consumption of artificial trans fat that is considered safe,’’ Dr. Johnson said. “Many restaurants and businesses have already recognized that and have banned trans fat. We applaud them and we look forward to working with other businesses to assist them with compliance.’’
Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, praised Mayor Menino and the public health board for their leadership on instituting the ban. “This vote is an example of the city putting the health and well-being of its residents first,’’ she said.
Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, raise the level of bad (LDL) cholesterol in the body and lowers the good (HDL) cholesterol. Eating trans fat can increase one’s risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It can also put people at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
While some trans fat occurs naturally in certain foods, most trans fat in the diet comes from artificial trans fat. This is produced through a chemical process that changes liquid vegetable oil to solid form. The regulation pertains only to artificial trans fat.
It applies to all food service establishments that are required to hold an operating permit from Boston’s Inspectional Services Department. These include restaurants, grocery stores, delis, cafeterias in schools and businesses, caterers, senior-center meal programs, children’s institutions, mobile food-vending units, and commissaries that supply them, bakeries, park concessions, street-fair food booths, and other establishments.
The regulation does not apply to food or beverage served in the manufacturer’s original sealed package, such as a package of cookies or a bag of potato chips. It also does not apply to food or beverage items that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
Starting on Sept. 13, all cooking oils, shortenings, and margarines containing artificial trans fat must be eliminated from the menu. Six months later, the ban will apply to baked goods and other foods containing artificial trans fat.
Establishments will be inspected for compliance during their routine food inspection by Boston’s ISD. Inspectors will check food pantries and kitchens to ensure that frying oils or any kind of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening, or margarine does not contain more than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
Businesses that violate the regulation would receive a citation and fine, ranging from $100 to $1,000.