The legislation comes from Democrat James W. Hubbard, whose recent bill in Maryland’s House of Delegates would ban restaurants from serving foods with more than a half-gram of trans fat per serving.
Trans fats are an unsaturated fat that today is often created commercially from hydrogenated plant oils. While small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in cows and other animals, trans fats are an unnecessary part of food, and considered a heart health risk.
"Legislation efforts to ban trans fats are sweeping our nation, and that's a good thing for public health," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of "Poison In the Food," a book about hydrogenated oils. "The more cities and states enact these bans, the more pressure it places on corporations like McDonald's to clean up their act and stop harming their customers' health with artificial ingredients known to be damaging to human health."
The trans fats ban would affect fast food restaurants and mom-and-pop eateries alike: it bans the use of margarine, shortening or anything with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils as part of the preparation of the food.
“All those kids out there who are eating french fries and other fried foods; they're starting to clog their arteries at a young age,” Hubbard told the Baltimore Sun.
In Maryland, the proposed legislation is expected to see strong opposition because it attempts to create an outright ban. The Restaurant Association of Maryland, which opposes a ban but would consider a voluntary recall, fears that banning hydrogenated oil may lead some places to switch to saturated fats that offer no improvement in food quality, health-wise.
There is yet to be a state that has passed a ban on trans fats. However, 16 states have proposed legislation that requires restaurants to inform customers which foods on the menu contain trans fats.
Also, no equivalent bill has been put forth in the Maryland senate.
The recent legislation in New York City, which comes into effect July 2008, was created by the city’s health board.