- Author: Rose Hayden-Smith
California may be stuck in a budget impasse, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was able to move the state's public policy vis-a-vis nutrition and public health a big step forward on Friday, by signing Assembly Bill 97 into law. This landmark legislatation makes California the first state to prohibit restaurants from using artery-clogging trans fats in preparing food. The legislation, which takes effect in 2010, bans restaurants and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fats.
Schwarzenegger noted that consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease. "Today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California," he said.
The legislation, penned by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), isn't perfect. For example, food items sold in the manufacturers' sealed package are exempt. And restaurants get an extra year - until 1/1/2011 - to continue to use trans fats for deep frying and baking. But there are fines for those who violate the new legislation, ranging from $25 to $1000. All in all, it's a big step towards improving the ability of California consumers to eat healthier and smarter.
Some major U.S. cities, including New York, Philadelphia and Seattle already have legislation on the books that bans trans fats. California and Oregon (both leaders in the farm-to-school movement) also have laws banning trans fats in school meals. But California, ever a trend-setter, is the first state to adopt a law covering restaurants.
Governor Schwarzenegger has supported other healthy lifestyle legislation, including Assembly Bill 1535, which provides funds for gardens in California's public schools.
Will AB 97 and AB 1535 help the Golden State improve public health? It will take some time to tell. But California is truly a bellwether state; clearly, other states will be watching closely, and we can probably expect a rash of similar legislative efforts in the near future.
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