Montgomery County Trans Fat Proposal Praised

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson


People who live in the area won’t be surprised to learn that Montgomery County, Maryland is slightly ahead of most of the country in terms of advancing public health. After all, the county was one of the first jurisdictions to protect restaurant patrons from the hazards of secondhand cigarette smoke. And local institutions like the Silver Diner, and the global Marriott, headquartered here, are similarly far ahead of most other food service providers in that they’ve gotten rid of artificial trans fat. Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg deserves credit and the public’s gratitude for proposing that all food service providers in the county phase out partially hydrogenated oils.

Let’s be clear that the partially hydrogenated oils at issue here aren’t a true food, as such, but rather an artificial substance created in chemical factories. Natural, heart-healthy fats like canola, soybean, corn, and peanut oils abound, and are perfectly suitable for deep-frying, baking, and for use in processed foods. Though high in saturated fat, even butter, sustainably grown palm oil, and lard are better than partially hydrogenated oils. No one’s going to miss artificial trans fat once it’s gone.

I hope that Councilmember Trachtenberg’s proposal inspires another locally headquartered institution, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to take action on trans fat. While the FDA acknowledges that artificial trans fat is a powerful promoter of heart disease, and that it has been contributing to the early demise of tens of thousands of Americans each year, the agency has mostly been a silent spectator while cities like New York and Philadelphia have acted on their own to protect their citizens’ health.

Happily, when we tested French fries from the FDA’s own cafeteria in Rockville, we found that they were virtually trans-fat-free. But I note with some pleasure that Montgomery County’s regulation would apply there also, as well as at Burger King, McDonald’s, and at any other establishment still using this discredited ingredient. I urge the full Council to support this important public-health regulation and I look forward to having yet another reason to go out to eat in Montgomery County.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]