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Illinois set to ban trans fats statewide

Illinois soon could become the second state to ban the sale of food containing trans fats, if legislation passed Wednesday in the Illinois House of Representatives passes the state Senate and becomes law.

The “Artificial Trans Fat Restriction Act,” an amendment to House Bill 1600, would bar the sale at restaurants or school vending machines of items containing more than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving or that contain vegetable shortening, margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

If made into law, the ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2013, in all Illinois restaurants and vending machines at public and private schools.

The House voted 73-43 in favor of the amendment. Its sponsor, Rep. LaShawn Ford of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune the legislation was “a step in the right direction.”

“Health problems cost our state so much money,” Democrat Ford said, “and if we can use prevention to keep people out of emergency rooms and keep them healthy, this is a step in that direction.”

Sheila O’Grady, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association said restaurateurs have stopped trans fats usage long ago.

“Restaurant operators have understood for a long time that consumers do not want their food cooked in trans fat oils and, voluntarily, have stopped using trans fat products,” she said in a statement. “In fact, in polling our members, we could not find a single operator still using trans fat oils today.”

California was the first state to ban trans fats from restaurants, when its prohibition of the fats was signed into law July 25, 2008. Several cities and counties, including New York City, had passed similar bans leading up to the first statewide action. Since that time, restaurants across the country largely have moved to purge trans fats from their menus voluntarily by changing recipes and sourcing non-hydrogenated cooking oils.

Separately, the Cleveland City Council considered a measure this month to ban the sale of foods containing trans fats. Its sponsor, Democratic Councilman Joe Climperman of the 3rd Ward, also is aiming for a Jan. 1, 2013, start date for a ban on any items containing trans fat or made with vegetable shortening, margarine or partially hydrogenated oils. Climperman also sponsors an ordinance banning smoking outdoors in city-owned and -operated areas.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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