Florida eyes trans-fat disclosure measure

News

TALLAHASSEE Fla. Two Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require restaurants in the state to warn customers that their menus contain trans fats.

Rep. Joe Gibbons (D-Hallandale Beach) and Rep. Ari Porth (D-Coral Springs) say their proposal was patterned after New York City’s newly adopted restrictions on the trans-fat content of restaurant fare, which take effect starting July 1. The Florida measure would require restaurants to alert patrons if their offerings contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, the major source of artificial trans fats, which have been linked to heart disease. The bill does not yet have a sponsor in the Florida Senate.

The Florida proposal is one in a recent flurry of efforts to protect consumers’ health by mandating information from restaurants rather than imposing a ban. Officials of Los Angeles County reportedly struck an agreement this week with a local restaurant trade group that calls for eateries to forego trans fats on a voluntary basis. Virginia’s House of Delegates passed a bill that would require restaurants that permit smoking to publicize that fact with a sign in their windows. The measure was floated after a smoking ban was defeated at the committee stage.

Several Florida cities, including Boca Raton and Tampa, are eying trans-fat bans for their local restaurants. Statewide bans have reportedly been introduced in 11 states.

Gibbons and Porth said their alternative to a ban would require restaurants to post a trans-fat warning in a conspicuous location. The alert would read,  “Some foods served here contain trans fats. Eating foods with trans fats can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.”

Restaurant operators who violate the law could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, and might also lose a license or be fined.

“Banning it might be a little drastic down here in Florida, initially,” Gibbons told the Associated Press. “We want to make sure people know exactly what they’re doing.”

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association said it opposes such regulation.