Though the proposed bill is not as comprehensive as the trans fat ban passed earlier this month in New York City -- where trans fats in all restaurant foods are now banned -- it seeks to limit the amount of heart attack- and stroke-inducing fats in restaurant and school foods.
Garcia said lawmakers in California -- where legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have named health care the top issue in 2007 -- should take her bill seriously. If passed, the bill would place enforcement responsibilities on the state's 58 county health departments.
Garcia has also called for the creation of education programs to teach restaurant owners how to use trans fat alternatives. Because trans fat-free alternative oils are more expensive than their hydrogenated counterparts, Garcia admits the price of restaurant foods could increase. However, she said, eating out at restaurants is an option consumers can choose to avoid if the cost of somewhat healthier food is too high.
Opponents of Garcia's bill -- such as California Restaurant Association CEO Jot Condie -- say trans fats are not a "critical issue," and claim the expense of non-trans-fat oils will bankrupt small and independent restaurants and bakeries.
However, a number of California restaurants and bakeries have already voluntarily switched to trans fat-free cooking oils because of rising awareness of the health issues brought on by trans fat consumption.
"I've been pushing for it because sooner or later these things are going to become health concern issues, and we wanted to do the right thing," said Ed Levine, owner of six Bay Area restaurants. Levine chose a healthier oil -- canola -- despite an 18 percent increase in price over trans fat oils.
Phyllis Bramson-Paul, director of the California Department of Education's nutrition services division, said that while state schools are in favor of serving healthier, trans-fat-free foods, the cost of healthier oils could post a problem, since schools cannot raise lunch prices for children to cover the added costs.
However, if a separate piece of legislation introduced by Senator Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, is passed, schools would benefit from increased state reimbursements for offering free and reduced-price meals, as long as the meals are free of trans fats.