Last April, the Cleveland City Council passed an initiative to ban the sale of artificial trans fat-containing foods from local grocery stores and restaurants – but in June, the Ohio Senate amended the state budget to block the city’s ability to regulate ingredients used in the city to prepare foods, a move that the city mayor says is unconstitutional.
Evidence has mounted over the past 20 years that artificial trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) and lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol), thereby clogging arteries and causing heart disease. However, trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated oils are attractive to food manufacturers, as they are solid at room temperature, extend product shelf life, are stable at high temperatures, and are inexpensive alternatives to other solid fats.
Announcing the lawsuit, filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said that the legal amendment made by the state to block the ban breached the city’s constitutional right to home rule authority.
He said: “The health and well-being of Cleveland is the responsibility of the City of Cleveland and we are taking proactive steps to help make everyone in Cleveland healthier. One of those steps was a ban on industrially produced trans fat in local restaurants and food shops.”
Among organizations opposed to the ban is the Ohio Restaurant Association, which has argued that a city-wide trans fat ban could cost jobs, deterring outside investment and making it harder for existing restaurants to grow their business.
The ban was proposed as part of the Healthy Cleveland Initiative, and would take effect for most local food shops from January 1, 2013, and for foods with yeast, like dough and doughnuts, from July 1, 2013. Packaged retail items sold in grocery stores would not be included, but local food shops would have to provide labels concerning certain trans-fat-containing ingredients used to make foods in-store.
Current trans fat bans encompass areas that cover about 20% of the US population. On the back of growing concern about trans fats, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulation that was implemented in 2006 requiring manufacturers to list trans fatty acids on the nutrition panel of foods, providing further motivation for manufacturers to cut trans fats from their products, but there is no such labeling requirement for restaurants in Ohio.