Health officials in New York City are stepping up to the plate to remove trans fats from the menus at local restaurants.
The Board of Health will hold its first public hearing today on a proposal to make New York the first U.S. city to ban restaurants from serving food containing artificial trans fats – ingredients so unhealthy nutrition experts say they belong in the same category as food spoiled by rodent droppings.
Some eateries are already scrambling for ways to get trans fats out of their food.
Fried chicken restaurant chain KFC, a unit of Yum Brands Inc. (YUM), on Monday said it will switch to low linolenic soybean oil, a cooking oil with no trans fat, in all its U.S. restaurants by April 2007.
The change will take effect in all 5,500 U.S. restaurants, following a two-year trial to test and identify cooking oils with the same taste and characteristics as the previous oil.
Once the transition is complete, KFC's most-popular signature products, including Original Recipe and Extra Crispy chicken, will contain zero grams of trans fat. Other products will include Crispy Strips, Wings, Boneless Wings, Honey BBQ, Buffalo and Crispy Snacker Sandwiches, Popcorn Chicken, Twisters and Potato Wedges.
Wendy's, the national burger chain, has already switched to a zero-trans fat oil. McDonald's announced in 2003 that it intended to do so, but has yet to follow through.
If approved, New York's ban would only affect restaurants, not grocery stores, and wouldn't extend beyond the city limits.
But experts said the city's food service industry, with 24,600 establishments, is so large that any rule change is likely to ripple nationwide.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.