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Trans Fat FAQs

Basic Facts on Trans Fat


1. What is trans fat?
It is a type of fat that raises the risk of heart disease. While some trans fat occurs naturally, most is artificial. The regulation addresses only artificial trans fat, which is the main dietary source of trans fat.

2. What is artificial trans fat?
Artificial trans fat is manufactured through a chemical process. It is found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Foods that contain artificial trans fat include margarines, shortenings, and fry oils, as well as many baked good, mixes, and packaged foods.

3. Why is trans fat so bad?
Trans fat is the most dangerous type of dietary fat. It increases bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers good (HDL) cholesterol. Conservative estimates suggest that trans fat is responsible for at least 500 deaths from heart disease in New York City each year. Trans fat has no known health benefits, and there is no harmless level of artificial trans fat consumption.

Complying with the Regulation

4. What is the trans fat regulation? Does the regulation cover all food items?
If you store, use, or serve any food item containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening or margarine, it must contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. This rule applies even to oils or shortenings used to deep fry cake batter and yeast dough. The regulation does not apply to food served in the manufacturer's original, sealed packaging, such as a package of crackers or a bag of potato chips.

5. How do I know if the trans fat regulation applies to my establishment?
The regulation applies to all food service establishments that are required to hold a permit from the New York City Health Department. These include restaurants, cafeterias in schools and businesses, caterers, senior-center meal programs, mobile food-vending units and commissaries that supply them, bakeries, children's institutions, soup kitchens, park concessions, street-fair food booths, and other establishments.

6. My establishment is not required to hold a permit from the New York City Health Department because I am licensed by New York State. Do I still have to comply with the City's trans fat regulation?
If your establishment does not require a permit from the New York City Health Department, the regulation does not apply and you are not legally bound by it. Even so, using healthier oils may be good business! For example, if you supply food service establishments that are covered by the regulation, those establishments will not be allowed to use, store, or sell products that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, shortenings, or margarines containing 0.5 grams or more trans fat per serving. Unless you supply products that keep your New York City clients in compliance, you could lose their business.

7. How can I tell if a particular product is allowed under the regulation?
package label Step 1. Look at the package label or ingredients list to see if "partially hydrogenated," "shortening," or "margarine" are listed. If none of these terms appear, you may
use the product.

If any of these terms are listed, go to Step 2 to see if the product contains too much trans fat.

Step 2. Check the Nutrition Facts panel for trans fat content. If the panel says the product has 0 grams of trans fat, or less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, you may use the product.

If the Nutrition Facts panel says the product has 0.5 grams or more trans fat, you may not use the product.

If there is no Nutrition Facts panel on the product, go to Step 3.

Step 3. If there is no Nutrition Facts panel, ask your supplier to provide a letter from the manufacturer listing the product's ingredients. If the ingredients list contains the words "partially hydrogenated,""shortening," or "margarine," the letter must also include information on the amount of trans fat in each serving.

As in Step 2, if the product has 0 grams of trans fat, or less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, you may use it.

The letter should be on the manufacturer's letterhead and show the manufacturer's name and address. Keep the letter at your food service establishment, available for review by a Health Department inspector.

8. I buy containers of oil that are shipped in a box. The containers do not have labels but the box does. Do I need to save the labels on the box?
Yes. Save the ingredients label and the Nutrition Facts panel, along with the product's brand name and common name, until the product has been completely used. These labels should be available for review by a Health Department inspector.

9. Which labels should I save, and how long should I keep them?
You need to save the label for any food containing oils, shortenings, or margarines, regardless of how you use the product. For instance, if you are frying frozen French fries, you should save the label for both the frying oil and the French fries until both have been completely used.

10. What should I do with products that contain artificial trans fat if they are still in my pantry on July 1, 2008?
If a product containing partially hydrogenated oil has 0.5 grams or more trans fat per serving,
you cannot store, use, or serve it.

11. What if a supplier sells me cakes that contain no artificial trans fat, but each serving contains more than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving from natural sources?
If the product label or ingredients list does not mention partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening, or margarine, then the trans fat in the product comes from natural sources and is not covered by the regulation. In that case, you may use it. If the product label or ingredients list does mention any of these ingredients, its trans fat content must be less than 0.5 grams per serving.

12. If I purchase ingredients from outside of New York City for products I serve in my establishment, do those ingredients have to contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving?
It does not matter where you buy the products. All foods and ingredients stored, used, or served in New York City food service establishments that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, shortenings, or margarines must have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

Enforcement

13. Does the Health Department issue trans fat violations?
Yes. The Department began issuing trans fat violations on July 1, 2007.

14. Are violations counted as 'critical' or 'general'?
Trans fat violations are not counted as critical or general, nor do they count toward your food service establishment inspection score.

15. Does the Health Department follow up on trans fat violations?
Yes. Any food service establishment violating the restriction on artificial trans fat receives a follow-up inspection to determine compliance.

16. Are trans fat violations posted on
the Health Department's Restaurant Inspection Website?

Yes. Trans fat violations have been posted since July 1, 2007.

17. How much will I be fined if an inspector finds oils, shortenings,
or margarines that contain trans fat?

Administrative Tribunal hearing officers may assess fines between $200 and $2,000. Penalty amounts will increase for repeated violations.

18. Can I receive a violation for food I purchase in bulk if it comes without a label?
Yes. You need to have labels or other manufacturer’s documentation available for all products that are or contain oil, shortening, or margarine. 

If you buy unlabeled baked goods or other food products that contain oils or shortenings, you need to ask your supplier for an ingredients list and a Nutrition Facts panel or a letter from the manufacturer (as described in Question 7) showing trans fat content per serving.

19. If I have a food item containing artificial trans fat but I don't cook with it, may I keep it in my kitchen pantry?
No. The Health Department will issue violations for all restricted products that are found in the establishment - regardless of whether they are used, served, or stored.

Substituting for Trans Fat

20. May I use a product that claims to have '0 grams trans fat' if the ingredients list includes partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening, or margarine?
Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows products with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to be labeled 0 grams trans fat, even if they contain small amounts. Any product labeled 0 grams trans fat per serving is in compliance with the regulation.

21. Are products with 0 grams trans fat more expensive?
Establishments have found that the costs are similar. Contact your supplier to inquire about prices.

22. What can I use for frying instead of oils that contain trans fat?
Ask your suppliers for oils that have 0 grams of trans fat per serving. These include traditional vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, or canola oil, as well as new oils made from specific varieties of soybeans, sunflowers, and other grains and seeds with long fry lives. Your supplier should have a range of options available. Learn more about fry oils that will meet your needs.

23. What can I use for baking instead of shortenings with trans fat?
There is a wide variety of  baking products that can meet your needs.

24. What can I use for margarine spread instead of spread containing trans fat?
Learn which margarine spreads (PDF) contain 0 grams trans fat per serving.

25. What about butter, beef tallow, suet, and lard?
These highly saturated fats are not covered by the regulation because they contain only naturally occurring (not artificial) trans fat. Healthier fats are available for frying (PDF), baking (PDF) and use as a spread (PDF).