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On July 1, New York City restaurants must eliminate trans fats from oils, shortenings and margarines in their cooking. Restaurants will have until July 2008 to eliminate trans fats from all other foods. ((Dima Gavrysh/Associated Press))

Fast-food outlets in New York City are readying for a battle as a deadline nearsfor restaurants to post their calorie counts on menu boards.

Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's have said they will not change their menu boards before Sunday when the new regulations are introduced. Officials representing the fast-food restaurants say they are supporting a New York Restaurant Association lawsuit aiming to overturn the new menu board rules.

Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch said his company is not opposed to providing nutritional information in alternative formats, including flyers and posters. But he said calorie information would clutter the menu boards, making them difficult to read.

Under Canada's food labelling system, pre-packaged foods and drinks must list information on calories, fat, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fibre, sugar, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C in a nutrition box. However, food producers such as restaurants and bakeries do not have to disclose any nutritional information.

In June 2006, Health Canada's task force on trans fat noted that 22 per cent of the average trans-fat intake is provided by foods consumed away from home, usually in fast-food restaurants.But, the task force advised that restaurants would have a difficult time displaying nutritional information given limited space on menus and menu boards.

NYC trans fat banset forJuly 1

Meanwhile, by July 1 New York City restaurants must alsoeliminate trans fats from oils, shortenings and margarines in their cooking. Restaurants will have until July 2008 to eliminate trans fats from all other foods.

What are trans fats?
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.

Last week, Federal Health Minister Tony Clement called on Canadian food companies to trim trans fats voluntarily from their products within two years. Food producers have been asked to restrict trans fat content in vegetable oils and soft margarines to two per cent of the total fat content. For all other foods, trans fat levels should not exceed five per cent.

Calgary public health officials have said they plan to ban trans fats in restaurants by October 2008, while Toronto hassaid it is considering a similar ban.

With files from the Associated Press