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Hub health board to restaurants: Hold the trans fat

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Stephen Smith
Globe Staff / March 14, 2008

Now banned in Boston: artery-clogging trans fat.

The city's health board gave final, unanimous approval yesterday to a ban on the artificial substance in french fries, doughnuts, and other dishes made in restaurants and grocery stores.

"It's the right thing to do," said Harold Cox, a member of the Boston Public Health Commission.

Boston joins a growing number of cities, including New York and Philadelphia, and the town of Brookline in banning the ingredient. Trans fat has been linked to heart disease in humans and to diabetes in experimental animals.

The first phase of the ban goes into effect in September and will apply to the use of cooking oils, shortening, and margarine containing artificial trans fat. The makers of baked goods will have a year to eliminate trans fat from their products.

Packaged goods clearly labeled as containing the substance can still be sold, although most major manufacturers have already removed it.

The Boston prohibition would cover all restaurants, including school and hospital cafeterias, as well as fresh food prepared in groceries and delis.

City inspectors will visit businesses to make sure they comply with the ban, and scofflaws could face fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The prohibition faced only scant opposition. Of more than 90 written comments, only three were antagonistic. And when the Health Commission held a public hearing yesterday on the ban, only four people showed up.

Janine M. Harrod, director of government affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said members of the trade group were worried they could roll up multiple fines if an inspector found, say, several products containing artificial trans fat. But a commission attorney stressed that regulators do not intend to be punitive and promised instead to work with chefs to cook up dishes free of trans fats.

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