Illinois ponders banning trans fats

Riverside Bakery owner Bernie Rice has been in the bakery business for 40 years, and he uses recipes that are between 70 and 80 years old.

Those recipes might need adjustment under a new bill under consideration in the state Senate.

The Illinois Legislature is considering a ban on artificial trans fats in restaurants, or anywhere else that prepares and sells food. The ban would begin in January 2013.

The ban would extend to schools in January 2016.

The ban was passed last month by the Illinois House by a 73-43 vote.

State Reps. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, both voted for the ban.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for today in Springfield.

An amendment to the bill has been proposed in the Senate that would exempt breads, cakes, pastries, fried cakes, doughnuts, and similar baked goods, from the trans fats ban.

If the bill passes the state Senate and is signed by the governor, Illinois would become the second state in the country to ban trans fats. California enacted a ban on trans fats in 2008. New York City also has banned trans fats.

The Illinois Restaurant Association is not taking a stance on the bill, said Janet Isabelli, spokeswoman for the association.

“The Illinois Restaurant Association really thinks that the Legislature is pretty in tune with what restaurant operators have done over the last couple of years,” Isabelli said.

Many restaurants in recent years have made the switch away from trans fats, Isabelli said.

“Ultimately this is the direction restaurants have been headed for quite a long time,” Isabelli said.

Trans fats may be used for deep frying foods because they can be used many times in commercial fryers. Trans fats can be found in vegetable shortening, margarine and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Trans fats raise a person’s bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and is associated with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according the American Heart Association.

The proposed ban would not apply to food containing only naturally occurring trans fats; food sold or served in a manufacturer’s original sealed package; free food samples made available or served to customers in food facilities, but that are available only for sale in the manufacturer’s original sealed package; or food repackaged from the manufacturer’s original sealed package.

Rice, the owner of Riverside Bakery in McHenry, said he wasn’t sure how much more money it would cost to make the switch away from trans fats, but he said he was sure it would be more expensive – a cost that might have to be passed on to customers.

Suppliers would need to provide ingredients that are free of trans fats, Rice said.

“You can only take so many hits yourself,” Rice said.

He said there are trans fats in some of the shortening he uses in some of the bakery’s baked goods.

“It’s hard to make something without shortening,” Rice said.

Although he’s never tried removing all trans fats from his recipes, he said he had heard and was afraid that complete removal of trans fat will take away flavor.

Rice said it might be harder to get people to buy the baked goods because of the different flavors.

He said the Legislature should focus on other things, and this type of restriction could be rough on businesses.

“I think there’s a lot of other things to do besides this,” Rice said.

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