January 4, 2008
If you’re eating out in Calgary, the New Year just became a little bit healthier. Starting on New Year’s Day, Calgary became the first Canadian city to regulate the amount of trans fat in restaurant foods. Restaurants will be banned from using cooking oils that have a two percent or higher trans fat content; margarine and other spreads must also be below the two percent level. Trans fats have been linked to cardiovascular disease, clogged arteries, high cholesterol and obesity.
According to Dr. Richard Musto, executive director of public health for the Calgary Health Region, the initiative will occur in two phases. “Phase one requires the use of oils and spreads that contain less than two percent trans fat,” he said. “Phase two, which will be effective sometime in the middle of 2009, requires that all processed or manufactured foods contain less than five percent of their total fat content as trans fats.”
Musto said that a survey of over 400 restaurateurs done last fall shows that over 80 percent of them are in compliance regarding trans fat-containing oils, and two-thirds are in compliance with the new rules for spreads. He said that while the lower trans fat vegetable oils are often more expensive than traditional, higher trans fat cooking oils, the lower trans fat oils will offset their own initial cost because they don’t need to be changed as often. Health inspectors will visit restaurants to ensure compliance, and eateries will have a five-month grace period to comply before facing citations for health code violations or having their operating licenses pulled.
Dr. Brent Friesen, Calgary’s Chief Medical Officer, said the new guidelines will provide many health benefits. He told CTV that, “with healthier choices, we can see a reduction of somewhere between six and 22 percent in cardiovascular disease.” Statistics from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada indicate that trans fats cause 3,000 to 4,000 deaths annually in Canada.
Chicago and New York have also implemented lower trans fat guidelines for restaurants.
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