Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gotham's Butter Cops Run Wild

The first fines in New York City have been issued for illegal possession of margarine. The so-called grace period, where restaurants received warnings as opposed to fines for use of trans fats, expired September 30th. From Oct. 1 through Oct. 5, 20 restaurants received trans-fats citations -- most for possession.

The Post reports:
The fines ranged from $200 to $2,000, and all the restaurant owners are entitled to challenge the summonses at hearings.

Nearly all of the ticketed eateries were cited for using trans-fat-laden margarine.

Only one, Ballato on East Houston Street, which has hosted the likes of Sophia Loren, Roberto Benigni and Daniel Day-Lewis, was cited for using oils that lacked proper labels about the trans-fat content.

In other words, it's now illegal to possess unlabeled containers of oil. So much for those exotic, high-end olive oils retailed in ornate bottles -- too much work for the food cops to determine whether the law is being broken.
Owner Emilio Vitolo said he'll fight the summons because the oil in question was peanut oil -- one that doesn't contain the offending fats. He insisted that he never uses trans fats in preparing his meals.

Workers at nearly every restaurant contacted by The Post said the infractions were for stray containers of spreads or oils that hadn't been tossed out -- and they insisted their cooking is trans-fat-free.

"I didn't know [the new rules] applied to bakeries as of yet," said Rajandra Mahase, owner of Little Guyana Bake Shop in Queens.

That's also news to the Health Department -- from a recent press release: "This first phase of the regulation applies to oils, shortening and margarines used for frying and as spreads. It does not apply to baked goods or prepared foods, or to oils used to deep-fry dough or cake batter. Those products are covered by the second phase of the initiative, which takes effect on July 1, 2008."

And all this while the science behind the ban is dubious at best.