Bill calls for trans fat ban

Will New Hampshire will follow New York City (and several restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, for that matter) in banning trans fat from restaurants?

The first indication will be a public hearing on House Bill 324, a bill banning artificial trans fats, sponsored by Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth, that not only bans trans fats from restaurants but from retail food stores as well. The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6 before the House Commerce Committee at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

“Trans fats are toxic,” said McEachern. “It’s a real dangerous problem for kids. It’s insidious, it increases your body’s cholesterol and you can’t get rid of them [once in the body].”

But Michelline Dufort, president of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, argues that restaurants should make this decision on their own.

“We do feel that the market drives the issue,” she said. “A lot of restaurants have taken it off the menu. The government shouldn’t interfere.”

It is true that many companies in the restaurant industry are moving this way anyway. The Marriott International and Omni hotel chains announced on Thursday that they would no longer be using partially hydrogenated oils. McDonald’s Corp. announced Monday that it had selected a trans-fat free oil for cooking and Burger King said on Wednesday that it would began testing its oils.

But McEachern argues much of this happened since New York City passed its ban, which is due to go into effect in July. Some 11 other states are considering similar proposals as well.

“We are talking about a few cents,” he said. “The health risks are so proven we should do something about it. Diabetes costs an awful lot more than the price of French fries,” said McEachern.

There also is the question of whether more than French fries are affected.

The bill bans trans fat in “any food prepared for sale or service on the premises or elsewhere, by any food service establishment or retail food store licensed by the
Department of Health and Human Services.”

McEachern said he was targeting retail food stores engaging in prepared foods – delis making sandwichees or convenience stores selling homemade brownies — but John Dumais, president of the New Hampshire Retail Grocers Association worried that theh language might include grocery stores.

“This is a serious and dangerous bill,” said Dumais “Your favorite food may not be available, because a large manufacturer is not going to make a special product just because a small state won’t take it.” – BOB SANDERS

Categories: News