September 28, 2022
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While public health officials say they are happy about a state crackdown on trans fats, a new law may mean some bread products will get a recipe overhaul.

In the Tri-Counties, doughnuts are bearing the brunt of the burden, as the new measure requires that all oil, shortening or margarine containing these partially hydrogenated vegetable oils be eliminated from all restaurants and fast food chains by 2010 and from baked goods by 2011.

“From a public health perspective, it’s an [encouraging] thing,” said Curtis Batson, director of enviromental health for San Luis Obispo County. He said trans fats are bad for the heart.

“Trans fats are related to heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” said Anne Patterson, a registered dietician and the public health nutritionist for Santa Barbara County. “They raise the bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol.”

California is leading the nation in the war against trans fats as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law on July 25, that puts new requirements on food makers and restaurants. Any food now containing trans fats will be required to bear a warning label. A violation of these requirements will cost businesses up to $1,000 in fines.

Trans fats have a higher melting point and, therefore, give baked goods more moisture and an extended shelf life, but they have also been linked to serious health issues including diabetes and heart disease.

Since bakeries are among the businesses most affected by the new law, many, such as Anna’s Marketplace Bakery in Goleta and Golden Doughnut in Pismo Beach, are already getting a head start and experimenting with new, trans fat-free cooking alternatives.

Healthy cooking oils are generally more costly, and more oil must be added to maintain moisture in the frying process. Lisa Boelter, owner of Anna’s Marketplace Bakery, said she fears that consumers may believe they are buying day-old doughnuts.

“On one hand, I’m a business owner and it’s an additional law to comply with, but, on the other hand, I’m also a consumer,” Boelter said. “If there’s something available that’s healthier, I prefer that over what’s cheaper.”
Kristine Leang, manager of the Golden Doughnut, said she sees the new law as just one more step in reducing American obesity, as well as a protective measure for children. She hopes Californians of all generations are becoming increasingly aware of what they are consuming.

Milly Gaines, owner of the Yankee Doodle Bakery in Ventura, noted that he sees a disparity in his clientele. “A few people ask about [trans fats] at the farmer’s market, but at the store, people seem unaware.” He sees the law as a protective measure for people who do not have an educational background on this issue. Although the initiative is a safeguard for those unaware of the deadly effects of trans fats, all public school cafeterias are exempted from compliance with the law.

The good news is that many business owners are noticing an increase in health-consciousness among their customers as patrons are now asking what oils are used in food preparation.

Bakeries and restaurants specializing in vegetarian options and natural goods, such as Natural Café, have enjoyed increased profits as more people switch over to healthier lifestyles. Over the last two years, Natural Café has nearly doubled its revenue. The Natural Café boasts nine locations in the Tri-Counties, and Louis Alvaro, operations manager of the Goleta branch, was enthusiastic about current trends. “People are realizing that healthy eating isn’t just for the tofu-conscious anymore,” he said.

Even though the ban is only state-wide, larger chains and corporations have taken the initiative to alter their menus on a national level. CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has already sworn to be completely trans-fat-free by the end of 2008.

As of May 2008, McDonald’s USA has already transitioned to a “new zero-gram TFA canola blend cooking oil in [their] 14,000 U.S. restaurants,” said McDonald’s spokesperson Jessica Trumble. All of its menu items, including its fresh-baked cookies, McGriddles, french fries and chicken sandwiches, have been reformulated.

The venture has also stimulated growth in the market for healthy shortening alternatives as research seeks to expand the limited options.

Overall, the swift response to the ban reflects California’s support for a healthier lifestyle, as well as the knowledge that companies will have to compete for sales from increasingly savvy shoppers.

Even though the law allows several years for businesses to transition, most are already trans-fat free or will be in the near future. “All ingredient prices have shot way up, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting how people buy. If they want it, they buy it,” said Yankee Doodle Bakery owner Gaines.