California Taking the “Trans” Out of Fat

No trans fat for you. Beginning New Year's Day, California will become the first state to bar restaurants from using trans fats, a substance tied to clogged arteries, strokes and coronary heart disease.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hailed the measure as "taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future." He signed the measure in 2008 but restaurants were given a one-year adjustment period which ends Friday. California previously had barred trans fat in preparing food for schools.

The New Year's Day deadline poses no major problem, said Daniel Conway, spokesman for the California Restaurant Association.

"This was an ingredient that was already being phased out, for the most part," he said. "I think most restaurants have had adequate time to comply."

McDonald's, Burger King, Rubio's and KFC, also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, are among fast-food chains that do not cook with trans fats, officials said.

Trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, a process meant to improve the shelf life and enhance the flavor of foods. Liquid oils are turned into solid fats like shortening or stick margarine and are typically used in fried foods, baked goods, snack foods, and other items.

California's new ban will prevent restaurants from using oils, margarines and shortenings containing more than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.  Local health departments will be doing routine restaurant inspections for compliance. Violators can be fined up to $1,000.

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