LANSING – The war on the bulging waistline has a new frontline.
A Flint lawmaker wants to require restaurants to disclose nutrition information on their menus and eventually ban trans fatty acids from the foods they serve.
Democratic Rep. Lee Gonzales said that he hopes to increase public awareness of health and begin phasing out trans fat from foods.
“We need to get to a point where instead of saying ‘supersize this,’ we say ‘minimize this,’” Gonzales said.
Michigan ranks 11th in the nation for obesity, and said “What I really want to do is create the conversation about nutrition.”
Trans fat is a result of manufacturers adding hydrogen to vegetable oil during a process called hydrogenation.
The FDA say consuming trans fat raises bad cholesterol levels and increases the risk for coronary heart disease, a leading causes of death.
Oakland County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson said she supports Gonzales’ effort to regulate trans fat, and said she’s also coming up with a plan to restrict use of trans fat in her county.
Gershenson said she is conducting a two-year study and hopes for input from the Michigan Restaurant Association and other interest groups.
She plans to meet with Gonzales, saying, “I totally support his efforts and fully support joining him.”
Gonzales said many people have no idea of the amount of trans fat they consume.
A small container of McDonald’s french fries contains 8 grams of trans fat and a chicken pot pie from Kentucky Fried Chicken contains 14 grams of trans fat, according to company Web sites.
There is no recommended daily maximum of trans fat.
New York City serves as a model for regulating trans fat, Gonzales said. The city’s board of health last year ordered restaurants to begin phasing out the use of trans fat.
Sara Markt, a health department representative, said the plan is moving along nicely and has public support. Many restaurants have switched their cooking oils already.
But Andy Deloney, public affairs director for the Michigan Restaurant Association, said his group opposes a state ban on trans fat.
The restaurant industry’s main concern is that if many states ban trans fat, there could be a shortage of replacement cooking oils, he said.
“You have to conclude that if all these bans were to go through, they may have supply issues,” Deloney said.
Another objection is that newer cooking oils without trans fat may have other adverse, unknown health effects, he said.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, trans fats aren’t essential and don’t provide any benefits to human health.
Although some critics don’t want the government to regulate fats in food, Gershenson said there should be a point where the government looks out for constituents.
“At what point is it the legislator’s responsibility?” she asked.