Tomorrow the NYC Department of Health will hold its hearing on a proposal to ban all trans fat from the city's restaurants. In today's NY Daily News the New York State Restaurant vice president, Chuck Hunt, writes about the difficulties that the ban, whose start up date is July, 1, 2007, will cause for the city's eateries. He makes a number of important points that the Department should pay close attention to.
In the first place, as we have been harping on for the past week, the area's small restaurants have gotten no adequate notice of the trans fat issue. The outreach is non-existent and, as Hunt underscores, the question of an adequate supply of alternative ingredients has not been addressed. The reality is that the Health Department has not done the needed due diligence to see what the difficulties are out in the neighborhoods.
As Hunt indicates, "Another problem is that 80% of frying oils now used by restaurants come from soybeans. While special low fat soybean oils are now on the market, the current supply is inadequate." There may be as much as an 18 month delay before the supply lines are sufficient to meet the instant demand caused by the NYC ban.
There is a compelling need for the city to step back, take a deep breathe, and look to put back any implementation date for at least a year and a half from the current July 1st deadline. The DOH needs to then engage the industry, particularly the ethnic trade associations that are capable of reaching out to the thousands of immigrant restaurant owners who are totally in the dark on trans fat, and really conduct a well financed educational program that includes the identification of alternative sources of supply.
As we have said before, outreach does not begin with a $1,000 fine. Let's do the right thing here so that the goal of a healthier New York includes the health of the city's small businesses.