New York nixed transfats " is Vail next? |

New York nixed transfats " is Vail next?

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” New York City officials recently put the smack down on trans fats in restaurants.

Philadelphia and Boston followed suit, and several other cities are talking about ousting trans fats from their eateries.

Is Vail next?

Some Vail Valley residents say that when it comes to their diets, the government should butt out.

“I think that’s taking it a little too far,” Eagle-Vail resident Derek Felschow, 24, said of the hypothetical notion of banning trans fats here. “If you want to cook greasy, nasty food, I think you should be able to, and if people want to come in and eat it, they should be able to. Spend more money educating people about it.”

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But New York officials say they tried to educate eateries about the dangers of cooking with trans fats ” and nothing really changed. Hence the board of health’s decision in December 2006 to outlaw most artificial trans fats from food establishments in New York City. The final phase of the ban went into effect this month.

With artificial trans fats, hydrogen is pumped into oil to make partially-hydrogenated fat, said Katie Mazzia, a registered dietitian with the Vail Valley Medical Center in Vail. Artificial trans fats are found in cooking oils like partially-hydrogenated vegetable, soybean and cotton seed oils, she said.

Foods that can contain trans fats, depending on how they’re cooked, include baked goods like muffins or bagels and fried foods like French fries.

“If you eat packaged foods, that would be a big offender, like chips, baked goods, cookies, cakes,” Mazzia added.

Overdosing on trans fats can boost bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol, New York health officials say.

“So we feel that it’s even more dangerous than saturated fats and increases your risk of health disease,” said Gail Goldstein, deputy director of the New York City Health Department’s Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control Program.

Despite that danger, the average American eats 5.8 grams of trans fats per day, nearly three times the recommended 2 gram maximum, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Mazzia argues for raising awareness about trans fats but stops short of advocating for a legal intervention.

“I wouldn’t currently be one to say, ‘We should outlaw it,'” she said. “I would say the primary focus in my mind would be to start with educating restaurants and checking their compliance to see if they have changed, beause we are a small valley and I think that if there was some education on it, then food establishments would be very willing to eliminate it.”

Paul Ferzacca, owner of La Tour in Vail and Zacca Za! in Avon, doesn’t think a law banning trans fats is necessary here.

“I think most restaurants are conscious about it,” he said. “I’m sure there’s some that aren’t. I think that most restauranteurs around here try not to use them.”

Neither La Tour nor Zacca Za! use trans fats, he said. For example, the deep frying oil at Zacca Za! is trans fat free, he said.

If a ban on trans fats did go down in the Vail Valley, he doubts the restaurants would have to shell out much money to comply.

“It probably wouldn’t be expensive for the restaurant,” he said. “It would be expensive for the taxpayers because the taxpayers would have to employ a health inspector to inspect the restaurants,” he said.

In New York, officials spent $250,000, including grant money, on setting up a Trans Fat Help Center to help assist eateries adjust to the law. They hired a former senior editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to run the center.

New York health officials will check for compliance during yearly inspections at food establishments. Beginning in October, eateries that fail to comply with the law will face fines ranging from $200 to $2,000.

That level of government meddling struck Avon Bakery and Deli co-owner Mark Strickland as strange.

“It’s kind of strange that New York did it, kind of dictating what people can eat,” he said.

At the Avon bakery, breads, bagels and muffins are cooked without trans fats, Strickland said.

Likewise, Kirby Cosmos’ BBQ Bar in Minturn uses a soy-based oil without trans fats to fry things like sweet potato fries, owner Mark Tamberino said. He doesn’t have a strong opinion on a trans fat ban.

“I’d rather see other laws be passed,” he said. “It makes no difference to me because I’m trying to use the best products and be the best that I can.”

Local officials show few signs of jumping on the trans fat bandwagon. Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland said he doesn’t think the town should regulate that “area of personal choice.”

“We have never discussed it and I hope we never do,” he said in an e-mail. “We have more than enough issues facing the municipal government that are in our direct purview (parking, transportation, housing, the slowing economy, etc.).”

Avon mayor Ron Wolfe said the topic probably wouldn’t come up unless Eagle County initiated a discussion.

“I don’t think Avon as a town would take initiative on that,” he said. “I think it’s excessive government intrusion into decisions people can make on their own.”

Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon said trans fats haven’t come up because officials have been focusing on growth management.

“Having said that, it certainly might be interesting to take a look at it because we’re doing all that kind of stuff,” he said, noting the county recently received a high rating on its smoking ban from an anti-smoking group. “So the health of the environment and the citizens is obviously very important. We are a very health-conscious community. It certainly bears looking into.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or

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