Good news for foodies here at home: British Columbia became the first Canadian province to restrict trans fat in restaurant food this week, but as critics point out, the restrictions on the unhealthy fat won’t apply to packaged food sold at grocery stores.
Trans fats are found in things like cake and muffin mixes, croutons, cookies, taco shells, frying oils and margarine. “We want healthier food choices to be the easier choice,” said Ida Chong, BC’s Minister of Healthy Living and Sport, in a statement released on September 29th. “Consumers won’t see or taste the difference in the meal they’ve ordered, but with restrictions on industrially produced trans fat, they will be eating foods that have been prepared using healthier ingredients,” said Chong.
Trans fat comes in two forms. One form is naturally occurring in ruminant meat, such as beef or lamb as well as dairy products. The other is industrially produced, in partially hydrogenated oils, margarines and shortenings, and hidden in prepared foods like donuts, croissants and other baked goods, according to provincial health officials.
The industrially produced trans fat increases our risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of low-density lipoprotein known as bad cholesterol and lowering levels of good cholesterol, leading to blocked coronary arteries and heart disease.
Foods in which trans fat comes entirely from naturally occurring sources are exempt from the restrictions and do not pose the same harmful effects as industrially produced trans fat, health officials told CBC News.
Calgary was the first city in Canada to ban trans fats in 2007, but a massive overhaul of Alberta’s health system earlier this year meant restaurants could once again put trans fats on the menu. Alberta Health Services Board spokesman Bruce Conway confirmed Thursday that health inspectors in Calgary are no longer enforcing the trans fat rule. New York City banned trans fat in restaurant food last July.
Fast food giants like McDonald’s say they have banished trans fats without having to drop a single item from their menus. Baking supply companies have introduced a host of replacements for the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are the biggest source of trans fats. Not even Crisco is made of Crisco anymore. The company reformulated all of its products last year to have “zero grams of trans fat per serving.”
The one disappointment is that many chefs have been turning to products high in saturated fats, like palm oil, as a replacement. Some research suggests those fats might be just as bad for you as trans fats.
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