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Ohio judge sides with Cleveland City Council on trans fat ban

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 14-Jun-2012
Last updated on 14-Jun-2012 at 18:32 GMT

An Ohio judge has sided with the city of Cleveland in its attempt to ban the sale of certain products containing trans fats in the city.

The Cleveland City Council passed an initiative in April last year to ban the sale of artificial trans fat-containing foods from local grocery stores and restaurants. But just two months later, the Ohio Senate amended the state budget to block the city’s ability to regulate ingredients used in the city to prepare foods. The city’s mayor Frank Jackson said the Senate’s move was unconstitutional, and the city sued the state of Ohio in January this year.

This week, Cuyahoga County Judge Nancy Russo agreed with the city, saying that the Cleveland City Council was within its rights to ban artificial trans fats, and the decision was “a proper exercise of the city’s home rule authority.”

The ban was first proposed as part of the Healthy Cleveland Initiative, and was due to take effect for most local food shops from January 1, 2013, and for foods with yeast, like dough and doughnuts, from July 1, 2013. A spokesperson at the Cleveland City Council confirmed that those dates still stand. Packaged retail items sold in grocery stores are not included, but local food shops would have to provide labels concerning certain trans-fat-containing ingredients used to make foods in-store.

Evidence has mounted over the past 20 years that artificial trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol), thereby clogging arteries and causing heart disease. However, trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated oils are attractive to food manufacturers, as they are solid at room temperature, extend product shelf life, are stable at high temperatures, and are inexpensive alternatives to other solid fats.

Announcing the city’s lawsuit in January, Mayor Frank Jackson said: “The health and well-being of Cleveland is the responsibility of the City of Cleveland and we are taking proactive steps to help make everyone in Cleveland healthier. One of those steps was a ban on industrially produced trans fat in local restaurants and food shops.”

Current trans fat bans encompass areas that cover about 20% of the US population. On the back of growing concern about trans fats, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulation that was implemented in 2006 requiring manufacturers to list trans fatty acids on the nutrition panel of foods, providing further motivation for manufacturers to cut trans fats from their products, but there is no such labeling requirement for restaurants or local grocery stores in Ohio.

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