Thursday, 4:30 PM
State hires city's health chief
By Stephen Smith, GLOBE STAFF
The potential ban on unhealthy fats in Boston’s restaurants got put on a back burner today, when the administrator who has been directing the effort was promoted.
Led by executive director John Auerbach, who was appointed the state’s public health commissioner today, the Boston Public Health Commission had been investigating the feasibility of a ban on trans fats similar to the regulation adopted last year by New York.
Until Auerbach’s appointment by the Patrick administration, Boston had planned to consider as early as this month a ban on trans fats, which are commonly used in french fries and packaged baked goods.
"Given that I’m leaving in just a few weeks ... I think we’re going to postpone moving ahead on that until a permanent director of the commission is found," Auerbach said. "With something that requires a lot of hands-on involvement, I think it does mean there needs to be someone in the position for the foreseeable future for it to be successfully implemented."
Trans fats, which are usually artificial, have been linked to increases in the bad form of cholesterol and, by extension, to heart disease. The fat is used in commercially produced cakes, cookies, pies, margarine, and fried foods to extend shelf life and enhance taste.
In a statement, Mayor Thomas M. Menino praised Auerbach’s service and said that while it "will be extremely difficult to replace" him, Boston will begin the hunt for a new city health chief "as soon as we can."
Auerbach was one of Menino’s longest-serving department heads, having led the city’s Health Department for nine years. By choosing Auerbach, 57, to run the state Department of Public Health, which has an annual budget in excess of $500 million, the administration of Governor Deval Patrick is installing a familiar face in a high-profile job.