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Colorado Senate Seeks Trans Fat Ban in Some Schools

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No Trans FatsA Colorado state Senate committee voted 4 to 3 to reduce childhood obesity by banning trans fats in school cafeterias; however, its proposed ban is not as strong as it was originally. As Kristen Wyatt writes for the Associated Press in, the revised Senate bill would exempt more than half of the state’s school districts from a trans fat ban, with an amendment saying districts with fewer than 1,000 students would not be covered.

In addition, senators removed fundraisers from the ban, meaning that school bake sales and many sports concession stands would not be affected. The new version of the bill would give schools an extra year to comply, until 2013.

Trans fats are created by a process called “partial hydrogenation” of unsaturated plant fats or vegetable oils, writes Timi Gustafson, RD, for They are known to cause LDL (bad) cholesterol levels to rise and HDL (good) cholesterol levels to decrease, contributing to heart disease and other health risks. The National Academy of Sciences has said there is no safe level of trans fat consumption, which was confirmed by a comprehensive review of studies on trans fats published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NJEM) in 2006, Gustafson reports.

Studies have linked trans fats to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and prostate and breast cancer. Consumption of trans fats can also lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity, especially among children. The NJEM study found that trans fats in foods cause between 30,000 and 100,000 deaths in the United States annually.

Gustafson writes:

Even in the face of an abundance of scientific evidence and repeated warnings by health experts, consumer advocacy groups and legislators, so far the only way people can completely banish trans fats from their diets is by careful label reading, says Emily Main [a contributing writer and editor for Rodale]. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lets food manufacturers hide the true content of trans fats by allowing them to call their products ‘trans fats free’ as long as the actual amount is 0.5 gram or less per serving. Instead of falling for these false advertisements, says Main, consumers should look for ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ on the ingredients lists posted on the packaging. Or better yet, eat only fresh foods.

Wyatt writes that the trans fat bill faces an uphill battle because school board representatives say the cost to comply would be difficult for cash-strapped districts. All three Republicans on the Senate committee voted against the measure, which could presage its demise in the GOP-controlled House.

New York and Philadelphia are among the cities that have prohibited restaurants from cooking with trans fats. And as CBS News Staff writes for the blog HealthPop, “Several states already limit trans-fat in school cafeterias, but none has a trans-fat ban that extends before and after school. For example, Delaware and California both ban school food with trans-fat, but not at all after-school activities.”

Senator Sen. Lucia Guzman, who sponsored the Colorado bill, compared eating trans fat to pouring bacon grease down a sink drain. “That’s what it’s doing to your arteries,” she said.

A New York Times Well blog article by Anahad O’Connor quotes Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been tracking several hundred foods containing trans fats, since 2007. Jacobson said in the first couple of years, there were dramatic reductions in trans fats, but there have been almost no changes in the last two or three years.

According to O’Connor:

‘That suggests that either some companies don’t care about removing trans fats, or they have products where it’s particularly hard to replace,’ he said. ‘The failure to make changes over the past few years indicates why the Food and Drug Administration should do what we asked it to do back in 2004, which is to essentially ban partially hydrogenated oil.

‘The FDA could get rid of it with a snap of its fingers,’ he added.

Image by Mykl Roventine, used under its Creative Commons license.


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