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Budget, Education & City Services

Department of Health proposal to ban trans fat

Manhattan Community Board Five, representing Midtown Manhattan, would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment on two proposed Health Department initiatives. 

The first would require New York City restaurant owners to substitute trans fat oils for other healthier oils such as olive, canola, safflower or grapeseed.  While Community Board Five agrees that restaurants should limit the amount of trans fats, we are uncomfortable with mandating the removal of such trans fat oils.  Community Board Five is concerned that enforcement of the current proposal as is would be difficult and costly.  Additionally, it would be problematic for health inspectors to ensure that trans fat oils were not present in restaurant foods.

Community Board Five instead favors a campaign aimed at continued education of restaurant owners and their consumers about the dangers of trans fat oils. We recommend requiring restaurant owners to indicate the presence of trans fat oils in foods through a visible and easily recognizable symbol placed near the item on a menu.  This symbol would serve the purpose of educating consumers about the presence of trans fat oils and allow them to make an informed choice as to whether or not to consume the item.

The second proposed initiative would require restaurants that currently display the calorie contents of food and drink items to now display these calorie contents on menus and menu boards.   We are concerned that this may place an unfair burden on restaurant owners who may incur significant costs in order to upgrade menus and menu boards to provide this new mandated information.  Furthermore, we are concerned about the imposition this new initiative may place upon smaller restaurants that may have variable or changing menus items on a frequent basis.

Community Board Five prefers a pilot program that targets the larger chain restaurants such as McDonalds and Starbucks.  We believe that this pilot program should require all restaurants at a certain seating capacity, volume of service and/or with multiple locations to display calorie information on menus and menu boards.  Important information on the favorable and/or unfavorable impact of the legislation and costs should be gathered and assessed at completion.  Community Board Five does not want to burden smaller restaurants that are already seeking to educate their consumers through their voluntary provision of nutritional information with additional mandated requirements.

Manhattan Community Board Five appreciates and recognizes your commitment to the health and well-being of New Yorkers and we thank you once again for the opportunity to comment on both these important health measures.

The letter passed with a vote of 17 in favor, 16 opposed, 0 abstention.  

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