Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Counciling the Trans Fat Ban

The NY Daily News is reporting today on the effort by the City Council to chime in (supersede?) on the Department of Health's initiative to ban trans fat. The bill, sponsored by Peter Vallone Jr., was endorsed by Health Committee chair Joel Rivera, who told the paper, "This is a major health crisis and discounting any worthy ideas could potentially add to the issue."

As the News reports restaurant groups would rather see the council weigh-in on this issue because the legislative process offers opponents a better opportunity to help craft a bill that would be more considerate of all of the difficulties that may confront the industry in making the transition to other cooking oils.

As the DOH initiative currently stands there is a great deal of uncertainty about whether the restaurants in the outer boroughs (5,000 Latino owned establishments alone) have been adequately informed about the proposed ban. Without the proper information the proposed 6 month implementation period is simply too short and is just one more way for the DOH to violate the city's small restaurants.

This is not just the usual alarmist chatter. As the figures sent to us by the New York State Restaurant Association's Chuck Hunt indicate, the cash cow references that we have made are not exaggerated. In the first six months of this year the Health Department has collected over $10 million in fines from city restaurants. In May, June and July, the daily average fine collection was $109,460. That's not a cow, it's a whole herd!

And for those of you who think that is is some indication of a vigilant campaign to protect the public health, we suggest that you sit for a couple of hours with Hunt or Sung Soo Kim of the Korean Small Business Service Center-or look up Howard Tisch in retirement in Florida from his decades of defending the supermarket industry against consumer affairs fines-these guys will set you straight on how the mission to protect public health is subverted by the more compelling need to extract hard earned dollars from retailers and restaurant owners. Clearly, trans fat banning will just be another quiver in the DOH collection bow apparatus.