Groups rally for ban of trans fats beyond NYC

NEW YORK: After the New York City Board of Health's vote to ban trans fats from the city's restaurants last week, advocacy groups are launching efforts to push for similar policies in cities and states around the country.

NEW YORK: After the New York City Board of Health's vote to ban trans fats from the city's restaurants last week, advocacy groups are launching efforts to push for similar policies in cities and states around the country.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sent letters to leaders in Chicago - the only major city publicly known to be considering a similar measure - and officials in other, unnamed cities and states. The group has also approached several members of the new Democratic-led Congress aiming to push a policy change at the national level, said Michael Jacobson, CSPI executive director.

The hope, Jacobson said, is that if enough local agencies pass regulations against using the harmful oils, the restaurant industry will want uniformity, thus opening the door for national legislation.

"With trans fats, the writing is on the wall," Jacobson said. "To be honest, we're seeing changes in the restaurant industry faster than I expected."

In addition, the American Public Health Association (APHA) asked its 53 local affiliates to begin meeting with members of their state assemblies as next year's legislative calendars get drawn up. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA, said the group is using similar tactics as it did during its anti-smoking campaign, which resulted in numerous cities and states banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

"Once business owners saw you could do it and not hurt business, the process began to speed up," Benjamin said. "Our effort is very focused on local, grassroots education. We're trying to educate policy makers on the science through our affiliates."

The National Restaurant Association, meanwhile, said in a statement that it agreed, in effect, that restaurants should move away from trans fat in oils, but noted that a forced timetable was unrealistic.

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