(NaturalNews) Los Angeles County has implemented a voluntary program in which restaurants can be certified as "trans fat free" and receive a decal to display that fact to customers.
"This has been a long time coming," said Blair C. Salisbury, president of the Los Angeles County chapter of the California Restaurant Association. "I think we're trending toward healthier dining."
Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated oils, are vegetable oils that have had hydrogen atoms added to them in order to increase their shelf life. Trans fats do not occur naturally, except in small quantities in meat and dairy products, and have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
Both the city and county of Los Angeles considering banning the use of trans fats in restaurants, the way New York City did in 2006. But concerns over jurisdiction and possible resistance from restaurants convinced the local governments to implement a voluntary program instead.
"We wanted to do something that's quicker, that's immediate," said Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar. "I think overall, the cumulative effect will be a healthier Los Angeles."
The program is based on the principle that consumers will prefer restaurants that display the green "trans fat free" decals, and that this will encourage other restaurants to join the program.
"As people start looking for these zeros [on the decals] they're going to really respond," said Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke.
To be certified as trans fat free, a restaurant must apply to the Department of Public Health and pay a fee of $204. An unannounced inspection will then be conducted to confirm that cooking ingredients are trans fat free and that no oils, including margarine or shortening, are being served or stored that contain more than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving. A list of certified restaurants will be publicized on the Web site www.lapublichealth.org