The first, but by no means the last step, has been taken in the battle between trans fats and New York City. The city's Board of Health voted to ban the artery-clogging artificial trans fats at restaurants.
As a transition, restaurants will be barred from using most frying oils containing trans fats by July and eliminate them from all of their foods by July 2008.
The ban contains some exceptions, allowing restaurants to serve foods that come in the manufacturer's original packaging.
Chicago has considered its own trans fat law, but would be far less severe and would apply only to large restaurants, defined as those that make more than $20 million in sales per year.
While the board passed the ban unanimously, this won't go without a fight. Restaurants have argued that the time frame doesn't give them enough time to make the transition.
Those restaurants that are non-chain, i.e., those that don't exist outside the city, would seem to have a much easier time making the transition. Take out oil A and use oil B. They may not want to do it for a variety of reasons, from government interference to changes in taste. But their ability to do it is not that severe.
However, the chain restaurants have a different issue, and this is why I like this law. Those (McDonald's isn't the only one) who say "we'll do it" will now HAVE to do it. And not just in New York City; the logistics would require one system and so all would have to convert, or just not operate in NYC.
I do have sympathy for the critics. Under the law, restaurants could switch to oils that are high in saturated fat, such as palm oil, which were used before the trans fats came along. And yes, part of me resents the government telling the business what kind of oils to use.
But when you and I would cook at home, and we fry food items, we don't use these trans fat oils nor these high-saturated-fat oils such as palm oil. I don't think the taste difference will be that significant, and quite frankly if it is, then we will all be eating the same thing.