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Calif. to ban trans fats in restaurants

December 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Starting New Year's Day, restaurants in California must stop cooking with trans fats. The new legislation is aimed at making food healthier, but will it change the taste of your favorite restaurant meals? Dinning out in California just got a little bit healthier, even if you are indulging in fried chicken and fries at Dinah's in Glendale.

"All of our shortening, vegetable oil, margin and butter are no trans fat," said the restaurant's owner Linda Pearson.

Porto's Bakery and Cafe didn't wait for the new legislation to take effect. They stopped cooking with trans fats more than a year ago and switched to 100 percent soybean oil to fry their signature potato balls and plantain chips.

"You always find out in the initial year what's coming up, so you might as well move on it. Especially for us, we're a big store so we got to start trying things to see how they're going to work out," said the store's manager Willy Verdecia.

By the looks of things, it seems like it's working out just fine if you judge by the crowds often seen at the popular restaurant. But customers still say they are concerned about what they eat.

"It affects your health. It affects your well-being, and I think it's a good thing for them to stop with trans fat," said customer Gerorgette Ramierez of La Puente.

"I read about it, and when I buy food, I look at the labels, but at restaurants there no labels. So when I don't see I'm not worried about it," explained another customer Nettie Hendrickson of Alhambra.

Starting New Year's Day, your mind can be a little more at ease. California restaurants won't be able to use oil, shortening or margarine containing specified trans fats. Bakeries in the state will have an extra year to comply, presumably because it might take more time for them to maintain the same texture and taste of some baked goods.

"For us, it wasn't really a problem. In the bakery, we all use butter so that wasn't an issue," said Verdecia.

Health experts have long considered trans fats as unhealthy. It contributes to increased levels of bad cholesterol and it also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Montrose Bakery and Cafe has been in business since 1946, and it has no problem changing with the times and made the switch to healthier cooking oils two years ago.

"Obviously, we would hope that where ever we go, they're cooking with either vegetable oil or healthy oils which is better for you," said Linda Popovic of Montrose.