Yesterday's Department of Health hearing on trans fat generated a swarm of media attention and, in the process, underscored why administrative processes are probably not the best approach to this kind of health initiative. As the NY Daily News editorializes this morning, the Health Board didn't bother to stick around for all of the the testimony and there was the lack of legislative give-and-take that is so useful at arriving at reasonable compromise.
That being said, the Alliance and its ally-Louis Nunez and the Latino Restaurant Association-got there message across loud and clear, whether it was in a long article in the Spanish language daily El Diario and one in Hoy, or in a piece in the mainstream NY Times where Nunez told the paper that, "This big brother policy doesn't work." In fact, as the Times reported, Commissioner Frieden did come out to address the media and said that he "would consider revising the terms of the proposed legislation before a vote in December."
Our main point about the lack of outreach appears to be resonating with the Department. An article in AM-New York quotes Nunez that in his poll of 1,000 Latino-owned restaurants, over 900 had no idea about what trans fat was or what the city was planning. And in Newsday he told the paper that it was important to give his members the time necessary to insure that the new ingredients didn't alter the taste of the ethnic cuisine.
All in all, the Alliance received 332 separate hits yesterday in newspapers around the country, thanks to the effort of the AP's David Caruso's newswire story. We also defended the industry's interests on WCBS Channel 2 and Eyewitness News as well. We're not getting set to meet with the commissioner to hopefully work out a protocol on implementation with the Health Department. We haven't, however, given up on the hope that the City Council will intervene in this issue and make it part of its legislative agenda.