King County, Washington joins New York City by passing bold public health measures

WASHINGTON—The movement to get rid of artificial trans fat and put nutrition information on chain restaurant menus has spread from the Big Apple to the Emerald City.

Last night, the King County, Washington Board of Health voted to require food service establishments to phase out their use of artificial trans fat and to list nutrition information on chain restaurant menus. The menu labeling rule only affects chain restaurants with 10 or more outlets and that have standardized menu items. Starting in August 2008, those restaurants will be required to list calories on menu boards, and calories, carbohydrates, saturated fat, and sodium on printed menus. Like a New York City regulation adopted last December, King County’s artificial trans fat phase out occurs in two steps. Food service establishments have until May 1, 2008, to switch to trans-fat-free frying oils and shortenings and until February 1, 2009, to remove artificial trans fat from other products.

“From coast to coast, cities and counties are starting to take bold steps to help their citizens eat healthfully at restaurants, which are supplying more of America’s calories than ever before,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “The King County Board of Health is empowering restaurant patrons to make informed food choices for their kids and themselves. I hope chain restaurants respond by putting nutrition information on menus everywhere, not just where they are required to do so by law. Many restaurants are already abandoning partially hydrogenated oil for deep-frying and baking, and the rest need not wait for more of these measures to pass to get rid of it altogether.”

Other jurisdictions that have enacted phaseouts on the artificial trans fat that comes from partially hydrogenated oils include Albany County, NY; Brookline, MA; Philadelphia, PA; and Montgomery County, Md.

Montgomery County, Md. also held a recent hearing on a menu labeling proposal, and legislation is expected to be introduced there later this month. More than a dozen state legislatures, including California’s, are considering various menu labeling and trans fat proposals, as are a number of city and county councils.