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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Trans fat in King County restaurants: Questions and answers

What is the trans fat requirement?

The new legislation passed by the King County Board of Health in July 2007 requires all food establishments with operating permits from Public Health - Seattle & King County to discontinue using products that contain 0.5 grams or more of artificial trans fat per serving, with the exception of foods served in their original container and unopened, such as potato chips.

The first phase of the trans fat ban, which applies to fry oils and shortenings, goes into effect May 1, 2008.

Food establishments must find alternatives for margarine and all other products containing trans fats by February 1, 2009.

Many food establishments have already made the switch to trans fat free alternatives, but the new rules will ensure that the remaining restaurants will make the change as well

Read the complete Board of Health legislation on trans fat: BOH Regulation #07-02, An amendment for the protection of the public health through the regulation of foods containing artificial trans fat.

What are artificial trans fats?
Artificial trans fat is formed during a chemical process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid, creating a "partially hydrogenated oil." To determine if any trans fat is present in a packaged food, look for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on the ingredient list.

Why are artificial trans fats unhealthy?

Even eating small amounts of trans fats increase the risk for coronary heart disease by raising LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreasing HDL (good cholesterol). Studies predict that replacing trans fats with healthier fats and oils can prevent approximately 30,000 to 100,000 premature deaths each year in the United States.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fat to no more than 1% of total daily calories. For example, a 2,000 calorie diet should limit total trans fat in a day to 2 grams. Americans currently eat an average of 6 grams of trans fat a day. In addition, the American Medical Association (AMA) recently passed a new policy supporting removing trans fat from foods and replacing them with healthier fats and oils. Read the AMA policy.

Are trans fats in many foods naturally?
Small amounts of natural trans fats are present in some meat, milk and dairy products including beef, lamb and butterfat. It is estimated that naturally occurring trans fat makes up about 20% of the total trans fat that the average American consumes. This legislation addresses the use of artificial trans fats.

Which restaurants does this affect?
This legislation addresses using products containing artificial trans fat in food establishments. All food establishments that obtain their operating permits from Public Health - Seattle & King County are required to comply with the proposed legislation to eliminate artificial trans fat. There are approximately 10,500 licensed food establishments in King County.

Does this apply to pre-packaged foods (cookies, potato chips) that my favorite restaurant sells?
No, pre-packaged foods sold in the original package are not affected by the legislation. Interstate commerce regulations prohibit these pre-packaged products from being included in the scope of the proposed legislation.
How are food establishments going to be informed about trans fat?
Public Health will provide information to food establishments through mailings and food inspectors.