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NEW YORK -- The city's proposal to severely restrict artificial trans fats in food served by New York's 20,000 restaurants will be revised to give the restaurants more time to comply, said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city's health commissioner.
The New York Times reported that Frieden said a new version of the plan -- first presented to the Board of Health in September -- would be submitted by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at a Dec. 5 board meeting.
The specifics of the revisions and how they would affect the timetable had not been determined, Frieden said. But he did note that the changes had been prompted by criticism from people in the restaurant industry who argued that the proposal would not give them enough time to develop new recipes that contained the minute amounts of trans fats the regulations would allow, the newspaper reported.
"We've said from the beginning that this was a proposal for public comment, and we take the public process seriously," Frieden told the New York Times.
The health department proposal, which was advocated by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, has thrust New York City into the forefront of efforts to reduce the consumption of artificial trans fats, the chemically modified ingredients that were once believed to be a benign alternative to the saturated fats in butter. Doctors and nutritionists now call trans fats the worst of all fats, with a direct link to heart disease, the report said.
Under the original proposal, the city would set a limit of a half-gram of artificial trans fats per serving of any menu item. The rules would have been phased in. If they had been adopted by the board in December, restaurants would have had until July 2007 to switch to oils, margarines and shortening that met the limits. They would have had until July 2008 to bring all their menu items into compliance.
Besides the problem of altering their recipes, restaurant executives complained that there would not be a sufficient supply of cooking oils and other ingredients that would comply with the new rules, according to the New York Times.
Frieden said that he had been persuaded that altering recipes for foods like baked goods, and finding alternatives that tasted the same or as good as items that now contain too much trans fat, might take more time than the health department had assumed.
"Working out recipes is the main issue," he said. "It's a matter of trial and error."