'It's A Health Protection Measure,' Councilman Says
February 05, 2011
The city could soon dictate how its restaurants and bakeries prepare their food, and owners of many local establishments say they don't have a problem with the idea.
The city council is considering banning the use of trans fats wherever food is prepared for the public, from expensive restaurants to fast-food outlets to bakeries.
"Just like decreasing salt intake or environmental smoke, it's a health protection measure," said Councilman Larry Deutsch, who introduced the resolution with Councilman Luis Cotto. "This diminishes the burden on society and decreases overall health care costs by switching away from things like deep frying. This is a benefit for everyone."
Although the ordinance hasn't been drafted yet, Deutsch said he envisions guidelines similar to the ban on trans fats passed in New York City four years ago. The city of Stamford followed suit, passing a trans fat ban in 2008.
Trans fat is produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Using trans fats in food gives the product a longer shelf life and a less greasy feel. Shortening and some margarines can be high in trans fat.
In this case, city officials said, restaurants would be prohibited from using most frying oils that contain artificial trans fats.
Deutsch, a pediatrician, said eating foods containing trans fats can lead to heart disease and certain types of cancers — not to mention obesity.
"About 30 percent of Hartford's residents are either overweight or obese," said Carlos Rivera, the city's health and human services director. "If 8 or 9 million people in New York City can successfully make the transition [away from trans fats], 124,000 residents in Hartford should be able to do the same."
Rivera said banning trans fats is part of a larger citywide initiative aimed at improving the health of residents.
"Part of this campaign is making healthy choices available, period," Rivera said. "The city has a huge issue with obesity, which leads to all types of chronic health conditions."
He acknowledged that some restaurants have already taken steps to eliminate trans fats, but said others continue to use them.
"Places like Wendy's and Taco Bell have been testing healthier oils and may have them available to the public, but we have a lot of mid-size restaurants that need to understand the implications of feeding our residents food containing artificial trans fats," Rivera said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at