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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, May 27, 2024

City of Boston bans trans fats in dining sector

Over the past weeks, a meal of French fries and fried chicken may have started to taste a bit different in the city of Boston.

On Sept. 13, the Boston Public Health Commission announced the beginning of a citywide ban on all artificial trans fat served in restaurants and other dining establishments. The ban includes all food and beverages that are prepared or cooked with partially hydrogenated oil, like French fries, but excludes packaged foods.

Although this ban only currently applies within the Boston city limits, surrounding municipalities may soon follow suit. Brookline has already passed legislation to be implemented later this year and, if effective, the trend could spread to the Medford and Somerville areas.

But the concern surrounding trans fats has already been a cause for action and regulation on campus.

Trans fats, unsaturated fats with trans-isomer fatty acids, are widespread in the food industry because of their low cost. They have been linked to a greater risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. If consumed in large quantities, these fatty acids disturb the levels of good and bad cholesterol in the body.

Associate Professor Parke Wilde, who teaches at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, believes that this policy represents a feasible improvement to the health level of the city's dining options.

"This is different from other food policy controversies because [trans fat] is easy to ban. Salt contributes to high blood pressure, which also raises risk of stroke and heart disease, but you couldn't have the Boston Health commission ban salt in restaurants," Wilde said. "Because trans fat is so specific, the unhealthy fat has ready substitutes."

Wilde added that it is unlikely that using these substitutes will lead to a spike in food prices in the Boston area.

"Substitutes may be marginally more expensive in some cases and have slightly different cooking policies, but I don't think that is critical," Wilde said. "If a chain restaurant has to substitute frying oil for a more expensive alternative it could make a small difference in the consumer price of the food, but the cost of the ingredients is only one of the many costs that go into the cost of the product."

Julie Lampie, the nutrition marketing specialist for Tufts Dining Services, says that Tufts took steps to rid its dining halls of trans fats long before Boston imposed a ban.

"We converted to trans fat-free oil in 2003. We only use 100 percent canola oil or olive oil," she said.

Lampie said, however, that Dining Services has not yet removed all trans fats from the Dining Services menus. "Some products still contain trans fats, like fries, but we are in the process of evaluating and finding a trans fat free alternative. We fry [the French fries] in trans fat free oil."

But Lampie added that steps need to be taken beyond the mere avoidance of trans fats to prevent heart disease or stroke. Students concerned with their intake of unhealthy fats should reexamine all choices they make in the dining halls, she said.

"Students should decrease consumption of saturated fat by decreasing the amount of meat that they consume, especially beef and pork, as well as decreasing their intake of cheese, which is loaded with saturated fat," she said.

Sophomore Pete Day believes that the ban is a step in the right direction. "Trans fats are man made and not healthy for anyone, they are simply a result of people trying to make a profit," Day said.

Sophomore Cat Burke would like an even harder attack on trans fats. "We need to go after Nabisco, that's where the trans fat is," she said.