Toronto restaurants could soon face a ban on trans fats, a new health regulation that’s being implemented in New York City on July 1st.
The city’s health officer Dr. David McKeown is expected to submit a report by September that outlines ways to phase it out of food establishments.
“There is absolutely no doubt that trans fats are one of the leading causes of heart attacks and other health problems for Canadians. There is also no doubt that we don’t need trans fats. They provide no benefit,” he said.
He added that a federal task force recommends limiting trans fats to no more than two per cent of total fat and no more than five per cent total fat in other foods.
Toronto restaurant owner and chef Felice Vacca isn’t bothered by the possible ban. In fact, he fully supports it because he uses olive oil in his kitchen instead.
“I like the idea [of the ban], because it’s not healthy,” he said.
Chain restaurants are struggling to get trans fats off the menu after New York City and Philadelphia required restaurants to phase it out by next year.
“Right now the public has to be very careful … if something says ‘trans fat-free,’ what else is in it?” asks Dr. Robert Eckel, past president of the American Heart Association.
Bills to restrict or ban trans fat in restaurants or school cafeterias have been introduced in at least 20 states.
In grocery stores, many packaged foods now disclose the amount of trans fat, and the race is on to see which manufacturers can get rid of it first.
The irony is most people eat about five times more saturated fat than trans fat.
Although trans fat is considered somewhat more harmful, too much of either greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other ailments.
The substance is created when companies add hydrogen to liquid cooking oils to harden them for baking or for a longer shelf-life, turning them into “partially hydrogenated oils.”
The problem is there’s no single substitute for the fatty element which has food chemists taste-testing their way through different cooking oils and fats, both naturally occurring ones and chemically modified ones, to find replacements that don’t alter each food’s taste or texture.
So what are the options?
There are some heart-healthier oils, called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils — such as olive, canola or soybean oils. Unlike trans and sat fats, these liquid oils don’t raise levels of so-called bad cholesterol, otherwise known as LDL cholesterol.
The toughest foods to eliminate the fat from are baked goods, such as pastries, cookies, pizza crusts.
Dr. McKeown is calling on Toronto restaurants and food service outlets to voluntarily refuse their use of trans fats.
For now, the province is waiting for the federal government to make the first move.
“We’re hoping the federal government will come forward with tough regulation but if they don’t, the city of Toronto is preparing its own set of regulations for restaurants the rest of the food service industry so we can guarantee the health of Torontonians in the event the federal government does not,” said McKeown.
If the ban is approved in Toronto it will take effect next January.
If you are what you eat, you’d better hope you haven’t been chowing down on foods high in trans fats.
Overindulging in the hundreds of different foods that contain the substance can create clogged arteries and lead to the kind of heart and weight problems that are becoming epidemic in North America.
The problem, as always, is that they’re in all the stuff just about everybody likes.
Trans fats can be found naturally in some dairy products, oils and meat, but mostly at low levels.
But manufacturers often add them to different foods to help extend their shelf life in stores. When liquid oil is turned into a semi-sold form – like in shortening and margarines, common ingredients in many foods – trans fats are produced. The process is usually called hydrogenation, because the food makers add hydrogen to vegetable oil.
That means most of the cookies, crackers and snack foods that are the most fun to munch on give you a dose of the substance, along with the equally dangerous saturated fat, that makes your taste buds happy but your heart groan.
Trans Fat List
(list is in grams)
What’s in all that junk you’re eating? Here’s a small sample:
Serving size: 147
Sat Fat: 7
Trans Fat: 8
Sat Fat: 2
Trans Fat: 2
Sat Fat: 1
Trans Fat: 0.5
Sat Fat: 2
Trans Fat: 3
Sat Fat: 4.5
Trans Fat: 5
Three Cream Filled Cookies
Sat Fat: 1
Trans Fat: 2
Sat Fat: 4
Trans Fat: 3
Sat Fat: 3.5
Trans Fat: 4.5