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B.C. puts restrictions on diners’ trans fats

British Columbia has become the first province in Canada to serve up limits on the levels of trans fats in prepared and served foods in restaurants.

“By the time we hold the Olympics in 2010, we want every British Columbian and every visitor to our province to know the food they order in restaurants or eat at schools is trans fat-free,” Healthy Living Minister Mary Polak said in a release Saturday.

But the national restauranteurs’ association says the province’s process is “fundamentally flawed” and doesn’t hit trans fats at their source.

Trans fat is known to increases a person’s risk of coronary heart disease and clogged arteries by raising levels of “bad” cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” cholesterol.

Such fat occurs naturally in meats and dairy products, the province said, and is found in various oils, spreads and margarines and “hidden” in prepared foods such as doughnuts and croissants.

As it’s “technically impossible” to completely eliminate trans fat, the province said its regulation restricts the amount of trans fat content of oils and spreadable margarines to two per cent of total fat.

It also restricts trans fat content of all other foods to five per cent of total fat content of the food.

All food service establishments that require a permit to operate a food service in B.C. must comply with the new regulation by Sept. 30, 2009, the province said Saturday. That means restaurants, delis, cafeterias, educational institutions, health care institutions, schools and bakeries as well as “special events.”

Packaged foods that are sold directly to the consumer and bear a federally-approved “Nutrition Facts” table on the package are exempt from the regulation, the province added.

“We applaud the objective of the B.C. trans fat regulation announced today, but the process is fundamentally flawed,” Ron Reaman, federal vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), said in a release Friday.

Same sources

“Trans fat reduction needs to happen at the national level and at the source, which is food production and manufacturing.”

Specifically, the CRFA said, Canadians source 84 per cent of their meals from grocery stores, according to market research firm NPD Group, but grocery purchases are not covered by the B.C. regulations.

And restaurant operators, the association said, source most of their ingredients and food products from the same manufacturers that supply grocery stores.

“The problem with these regulations is that they will force thousands of
B.C. restaurant operators to limit trans fat on their menus when
they have no control over the supply of trans-fat-free products,” CRFA’s vice-president for Western Canada, Mark von Schellwitz, said in the group’s release.

CRFA has also previously called for the federal government to regulate trans fat levels, thus sending a “strong signal” to food producers, processors and manufacturers to further invest in healthy alternatives to trans fat.

“Health Canada’s trans fat data monitoring program shows the restaurant
sector has made significant progress in reducing or eliminating trans fat,” Reaman said.

“We recognize that as an industry we need to do even more to meet
the targets recommended by (Health Canada’s) trans fat task force, but it’s going to take a co-ordinated effort by the entire food chain.”

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