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PA Gov. Urged to Ignore Findings of Trans Fat Panel

Rendell, Assembly Urged to Phase Out Artificial Trans Fat

WASHINGTON - Health advocates are urging Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and the
state's General Assembly to ignore a report from a task force on trans
fat that recommended against a legislative phase-out of the harmful
food ingredient. The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest says the state should instead adopt legislation requiring restaurants to phase out artificial trans fat-the heart-attack-inducing fat that comes from partially hydrogenated oil.

can easily replace artificial fat with heart-healthy soybean, canola,
or other vegetable oils, or, in certain baked goods, with solid fats
such as butter, palm oil, or lard, according to the group. Artificial
trans fat has already been successfully phased out in New York City and similar measures have been enacted in the state of California, the cities of Boston and Philadelphia,
and other jurisdictions. In those places and in supermarket aisles,
foods that have been reformulated without partially hydrogenated oil
almost always end up lower in saturated fat as well. In the rare event
that saturated fat replaces trans fat gram for gram, that would still
be an improvement, albeit a small one, according to CSPI.

"The report of this task force might have been credible were
it written ten years ago, when the science on trans fat was less
certain and the supplies of alternative oils less abundant," said CSPI
executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "But it ignores the example of
New York City, whose prohibition on using partially hydrogenated oils
has proven so successful. Philadelphia restaurants have already emptied
its deep fryers of partially hydrogenated oil, as required by that
city's law."

Though most major restaurant chains have already eliminated
artificial trans fat, many smaller chains and independent restaurants
and bakeries still market foods with trans fat. A statewide phase-out
would require those companies to make the switch also.

Besides several government representatives, the task force
included one representative from the Tasty Baking Company, two
representatives from the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, three
representatives from Sweet Street Desserts, Inc., and other
representatives from Utz potato chips and the food service giant
Aramark. Two of the members, including the chairman, work for the Penn
State Center for Food Innovation, which describes itself as a "unique,
cooperative research venture between food industry and academia," and
which counts among its numerous "corporate members" Hershey Foods, the
convenience store chain Sheetz, Cargill, Dairy Queen, Nestle, Sysco,
and others.

"Though several government employees were on the panel, its
recommendations almost certainly would have been supportive of public
health had bakeries, restaurant lobbyists, and other food industry
officials not been so overly represented," said Jacobson. "The line-up
reads more like the attendees list for a trade show than an objective
task force."

The task force said in its report that the materials to
educate restaurants about a legislative ban could be costly. But it
simultaneously relayed the offer of the Center for Food Innovation to
provide educational materials to restaurants and the public about trans
fat. "Such materials could be easily modified to educate the food
industry if trans fat were banned, or the state simply could have
adapted New York City's materials," wrote Jacobson in a letter to
Governor Rendell.


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