June 22, 2009

Assembly Legislation Bans Artificial Trans Fats, Requires Calorie Posting

Measures Empower Consumers to Make Healthier Choices

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz today announced the passage of legislation aimed at helping New Yorkers eat healthier and live longer. The bills require chain restaurants to provide caloric information to customers and prohibit restaurants from serving foods containing artificial trans fats. Both measures were sponsored by Ortiz.

"Some health experts believe this generation of children will be the first in history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents because of the obesity epidemic," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "Everyone, including food-service businesses, needs to be part of the solution. These bills empower consumers to make informed choices while protecting them from the detrimental health effects of artificial trans fats."

"Consumers already get nutritional labeling on foods they buy in the supermarkets to prepare at home. They should also be provided with nutritional information when eating out, so they can make healthier choices," said Ortiz (D-Brooklyn). "With more and more of our food dollars being spent on meals outside the home, we must make information about those meals more readily available."

Under the legislation (A.2720), restaurants with at least fifteen outlets in the United States would be required to post caloric information for menu items as they are usually prepared and offered. The information must be available on standard print menus, menu boards or drive-through signs in a size at least as large as the name or price of the food.

The second measure (A.6359) aims to protect consumers from trans fats often used in fast-food kitchens. Cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in New York State, affecting both men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, accounts for 45 percent of all deaths. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that consumption of trans fat be as low as possible and the American Heart Association guidelines recommend that trans fat intake be kept below 1 percent of total calories consumed daily. Eighty percent of trans fat is found in industrially-produced partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is often used for frying and baking. While the second bill would prohibit those oils to be used, it does not restrict naturally occurring trans fat present in dairy and meat products.