Thursday, 4:30 PM
City mulls ban on trans fat
By Stephen Smith, GLOBE STAFF
Boston health regulators could decide as early as February whether to ban trans fats in restaurants, the city’s top health official said Tuesday night.
After hearing from New York health authorities about that city’s recently adopted trans fat prohibition, John Auerbach, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said his agency would continue reviewing the feasibility of a comparable ban.
"It’s a challenging issue," Auerbach said. "I wouldn’t want a regulation that couldn’t be enforced in Boston."
David Mulligan, a former state public health commissioner who is now chairman of the board overseeing the city health commission, described Boston as "just sort of at the beginning of the process. I can just hear cries that we’re becoming the food police and that we’re infringing on rights," Mulligan said.
New York earlier this month became the first major city to ban virtually all trans fat from meals cooked by restaurants.
Usually artificial, trans fats have been linked to increases in the bad form of cholesterol and, by extension, to heart disease. The fat is commonly used in commercially produced cakes, cookies, pies, margarine, and fried foods. Typically, it is used to extend shelf life.
Studies show that during the past four decades, Americans have spent an increasing share of their food dollars dining outside the home. At the same time, their girth has expanded dramatically.
The combination of those two trends has led public-health specialists to consider whether they can battle the obesity epidemic by regulating restaurants. That has made trans fat an obvious target.
Stephen Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.