Calgary Health Region mulls trans fats ban

Calgary could become the first Canadian city to ban trans fats from its restaurants, the local health authority has announced.

Calgary could become the first Canadian city to ban trans fats from its restaurants, the local health authority has announced.

The Calgary Health Region has begun consultations with New York City's board of health, which last year became the first U.S. city to ban the artery-clogging fats from its restaurants.

The U.S. city expects restaurants to have eliminated the fats within 18 months.

Officials with theCalgary Health Region next plan to meet with the public, restaurant owners, and different levels of government about riddingCalgary eateries of transfats.

"We do have a wellness strategy and one of the strategies within that is advocating for healthy public policy, so this is one piece of that larger wellness strategy," said Mona Pinder, a directorfor the Calgary Health Region.

Mixed reviews at restaurants

Douglas Dunn used to own Chicken on the Way in northwest Calgary and still worksat the fast-food joint.He said they've tried products that don't have trans fats, but the food didn't taste as good.

"We've been talking to our suppliers but so far, we haven't come up with anything that's quite as good as what we're now using."

Shane Perrin, whoowns Calgary's Dairy Lane Cafe, said he's never used trans fats at his cafe and it would be a good thing for other places to follow suit.

"We've made more of an effort to go sort of a healthier route."

Can lead to clogged arteries, heart disease

Trans fats raise the levels of low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol in the body and can lead to clogged arteries and heart disease. Trans fats, initially believed to be a cheaper and healthier alternative to butter and lard, are created when liquid oils are turned into solids.

Under current regulations, companies are required to list trans fats along with other nutritional information on all pre-packaged foods and drinks — but restaurants and bakeries do not have to disclose any nutritional information, including whether their products contain trans fats.

In June 2006, Health Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada chaired a joint task force on the issue of trans fat. The task force noted that 22 per cent of the average trans-fat intake is provided by foods consumed away from home, usually in fast-food restaurants.

However, the task force advised that restaurants would have a difficult time providing nutritional information given limited space on menus and menu boards.

Companies voluntarily dropping trans fats

In recent months, many companies have voluntarily changed their fare, dropping trans fats from their offerings.

In January, coffeehouse Starbucks said it plans to eliminate trans fats in baked goods in company-owned stores by the second half of 2007. A&W also said it was revising its menu, offering items with no or low levels of trans fats.

J.M. Smucker Co. last week announced its reformulated line of Crisco shortening products contained zero grams of trans fat per serving.