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NYC Trans Fat Ban Takes Effect

By KAREN MATTHEWS
The Associated Press
Sunday, July 1, 2007; 7:59 PM

NEW YORK -- The city's ban on trans fat-laden cooking oils, the first of its kind in the nation, went into effect Sunday.

Along with the ban, fast-food restaurants in New York City now must post calories on their menu. Few eateries, however, were complying with the calorie rule.

Most fast-food chains reversed their initial opposition to the trans fat ban and implemented it ahead of Sunday's deadline, the city Health Department reported.

The first phase applies to oils, shortening and margarines used for frying and spreading _ not to baked goods or prepared foods, or oils used to deep-fry dough or cake batter. These are covered by the second phase of the regulation, which takes effect on July 1, 2008.

Since New York passed the ban last year, Philadelphia, Montgomery County in Maryland and the Boston suburb of Brookline have followed its lead with similar measures that take effect later this year or in 2008. Several other states and cities including California and Chicago are also considering trans fat prohibitions.

Leaflets tacked onto the wall at one McDonald's said, "0 Grams Trans Fat and Still Loving the Taste!" But the restaurant kept the nutritional information off the menus, relegating it to a chart on the back of the fliers: 740 calories for a Quarter Pounder with cheese, 620 for a McFlurry.

Even the leaflets were not in evidence at nearby McDonald's restaurants in midtown Manhattan. "I have no comment," said a manager at 10th Avenue and 34th Street.

McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Holdings Inc. were among the chains refusing to follow the new rule requiring certain fast food restaurants to list calorie counts next to menu items in type that is at least as large as the price.

With city officials not planning to issue fines for violations of the new rules until Oct. 1, most chains seem to be holding out in the hopes that a New York Restaurant Association federal lawsuit will get the calorie rule thrown out.

In the lawsuit, the eateries argue that their First Amendment rights were being violated, and complained that the rule would turn each of their menu boards into a cluttered mess.

At one Burger King restaurant on Sunday, the nutritional information including calories was posted on a wall where few customers waiting to order their food appeared to notice it.

If they had, they could have learned that a triple Whopper with cheese has 1,230 calories _ 1,070 without mayonnaise _ and a king-size chocolate shake has 1,260. The recommended daily calorie intake for an adult woman is about 1,800.

Lowell Stephens, a manager at the Burger King, said the information had been posted in the restaurant for at least a year and a half.

"A lot of people know that it's there," he said. "They can read it any time."

But when the city does start cracking down, posting the calories on a chart on the wall won't be good enough.

"It needs to be at the point of purchase," Health Department spokesman Andrew Tucker said Sunday. "The point being that customers can actually see it when they're deciding what to order."

Starbucks was offering a compromise. The chain's 220 New York City coffee shops will offer nutritional information on spiral-bound flip books set up on the counters where customers get their milk and sugar, spokesman Brandon Borrman said.

Borrman said putting calorie counts on the menu would be problematic.

"The menu boards become very visually complex when you do that," he said.

Subway, which has marketed itself as a healthier alternative to other types of fast food, is complying with the regulation and began putting up new menus including calorie counts at its 340 New York City locations in the past few days.

"We've always been upfront about our nutritional information," said Les Winograd, a spokesman with the chain, which is owned by the Milford, Conn.-based Doctor's Associates Inc.

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Associated Press Writer David B. Caruso contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press