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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 23:10 GMT
US debates 'hidden' food fats ban
Fried chicken, French fries and doughnuts
Trans-fats are said to be invisible and dangerous
New York City's plan for a near ban on an ingredient called trans-fatty acids in restaurants has received widespread support at a hearing.

Most speakers - including nutritionists and doctors - supported the move, saying trans-fats were a health hazard.

New York health officials have for years warned that the fats can clog arteries and cause obesity.

However some restaurateurs say the ban would be expensive to enforce and insist consumers should have a choice.

New York's Board of Health is expected to vote in December on the proposal.

The hearing came as Kentucky Fried Chicken announced it would stop using trans-fats for most of its products from next April.

'Potato Head'

For more than a year there has been a voluntary programme for the city's 20,000 restaurants and fast food outlets to remove trans-fats from the food they serve.

TRANS-FATS
They are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, turning oily foods into semi-solid foods
Used to extend shelf life of products
Put into pastries, cakes, margarine and some fast foods
Can raise levels of "bad" cholesterol
Even a small reduction in consumption can cut heart disease
They have no nutritional benefit

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in New York says this has not been as successful as was hoped.

A series of public hearings is due to discuss the proposed law, which would ban all but the most minute traces of trans-fats from New York's menus.

In a separate initiative, his department is also recommending that the calorie content of each item on a menu should be printed alongside it.

Officials say that many New Yorkers get at least a third of their calories from food eaten outside the home and the move is designed to help them make an informed choice about what they consume.

The proposals were supported by most of those who attended Monday's hearing.

"We're all starting to look like Mr Potato Head," said Howard Weintraub of New York University Medical Center.

However representatives of the food industry spoke against the proposal.

An attorney for Wendy's hamburger chain said the calorie content rule would discriminate against minority restaurants.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Some of the foods containing trans-fats



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