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National Restaurant Association - Strictest trans fat ban in country enacted in Chelsea, Mass.

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Strictest trans fat ban in country enacted in Chelsea, Mass.

The city of Chelsea, Mass. voted Tuesday night to enact the harshest trans fat ban in the country. All other cities that have implemented trans fat bans have allowed for trace amounts of artificial trans fat in food, but Chelsea will prohibit it completely.

The Chelsea Board of Health originally planned to implement the ban in January, but delayed enforcement and held hearings after restaurants voiced concerns over the unusual language that banned even trace amounts of artificial trans fat. Restaurant owners, national brands, and the National Restaurant Association weighed in.

“It is virtually impossible to eliminate all trans fat from restaurant food,” said Dr. Joy Dubost, Ph.D., RD and NRA’s director of nutrition policy in testimony before the board of health in February.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s federal trans fat labeling rule says that if the serving of the product contains less than 0.5 grams of artificial trans fat, it is declared as having zero trans fat. That’s why the majority of products available for restaurants to purchase have less than 0.5, not zero, grams of trans fat, according to Dubost.

The ban, which takes effect January 1, 2015, will affect all foodservice establishments in Chelsea, including bakeries, coffee shops, cafeterias, cafes, luncheonettes, grills, delis, tea rooms, sandwich shops, bars, roadside stands and catering kitchens.

Until January 1, 2015, restaurants are allowed to serve food that contains artificial trans fat (commonly referenced on the ingredient label as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”) as long as it is less than 0.5g or less per serving.  After that date, all trans fat is banned. Restaurants can apply for an exemption from the regulation (see Section VII of the regulation), but it remains unclear how that process would work.

Businesses found that violate the ban are subject to a fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $300 for any thereafter within any single, one-year period.

Trans fat, which generally is used to help extend shelf life and improve texture and taste of certain food products, such as pastries and other baked goods, has been linked to heart disease.

Read Joy Dubost’s testimony.

View the map of all trans fat bans.

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