Mass. House Tackles Artificial Trans Fat

Partially Hydrogenated Oils Cause Heart Disease, Health Groups Say

June 4, 2008

Artificial trans fat may soon be vanishing from all Bay State restaurants—just like it will vanish from Boston restaurants this fall. Today the state’s House of Representatives passed legislation which will require restaurants to discontinue using partially hydrogenated oils.

"Though Boston, Brookline, and other jurisdictions around the country have phased out restaurants’ use of artificial trans fat, Massachusetts could be the first to do it statewide," said Julie Salz Greenstein, deputy director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "That would be a big boost for the heart-health of Massachusetts residents. And it would send a strong wakeup call to the slow-moving officials at the Food and Drug Administration, who have refused to revoke their approval of this heart-attack inducing chemical."

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Peter Koutoujian and now heads to the state’s Senate, where it is championed by Sen. Susan Fargo. Two-thirds of Massachusetts residents support the idea of phasing out artificial trans fat, according to a 7News/Suffolk University poll conducted in February.

Artificial trans fat occurs when otherwise healthful vegetable oils are percolated with hydrogen gas, making the fat solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Once thought to be safe, research conducted in the 1990s and 2000s by Harvard professor Walter Willett and others has shown that artificial trans fat is a potent cause of heart disease. CSPI has been urging the Food and Drug Administration, as well as other state legislatures, to phase out artificial trans fat from restaurants. Trans-fat labeling requirements have encouraged most manufacturers of packaged foods to replace partially hydrogenated oils with healthier fats and oil blends.


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