Illinois may ban trans fat

May 5, 2011

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, in a bid to improve the health of Illinois residents, some lawmakers in Springfield are pushing a bill that would ban artificial trans fat from restaurants, bakeries, movie theater popcorn, and snacks sold in school vending machines. Illinois would be the second state after California to pass a trans fat ban, but opponents say the food industry already is eliminating trans fat on its own and that the government has no business getting involved. Proponents counter that until the very last establishment does away with the ingredient, the health risk demands legislation.

Sheila O'Grady, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said the government should butt out. Most in the industry voluntarily switched to more expensive alternatives a few years ago in response to consumer demand for healthier choices, she said. "In fact, in polling our members, we could not find a single operator still using trans fat oils today," O'Grady said.

Artificial trans fats have no health benefits and the evidence linking them with heart disease is compelling, said Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Chicago Democrat who is a sponsor of the bill. His West Side district includes so-called "food deserts," neighborhoods where it's difficult to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or find restaurants with low-fat menu items.

New York City and King County in Washington state are among the jurisdictions with trans fat bans. Those laws, California's ban, lawsuits, and the required labeling on packaged foods have led to an overall decline in trans fat in U.S. foods. Even fast-food chains, including McDonald's, have reduced or eliminated them.

The bill has passed in the Illinois House and awaits consideration in the Senate.

Chicago Sun-Times article

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