Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils contain “trans fatty acids.” Through an industrial process, hydrogen atoms on the fatty acid molecule are shifted into the “trans” position, making the molecule straighter and more rigid, and the oil thicker and more solid. This consistency provides a cheap substitute for lard or butter, provides a pleasant crispness to the food, and increases shelf life. However, this thicker oil raises several concerns, primarily the connection it has to health problems, such as heart disease and clogged arteries. 

What Is California’s Ban on “Trans Fats”?

On July 25, 2008, California’s Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 97, commonly called "the Trans Fat Bill," which required restaurants to reduce the amount of trans fat in their margarine, oils, and shortening to less than half a gram per serving by January 1, 2010.  Starting 2011, this law applies to deep-fry oil as well, for use in bakeries and donut shops. However, packaged foods will still be exempt. 

What Are the Other Requirements and Consequences Of “The Trans Fat Bill”?

The law requires food facilities to keep manufacturer’s labels for any food product containing fat, oil, or shortening. The label must show the content of trans fat. Food-preparation facilities that do not comply with the new statute now face fines ranging from $25 to $1,000. Law professors and legal experts predicted that if California’s ban was successful, other states will quickly follow suit. Despite the success of the ban, other states have been slow to follow. However, some progressive cities have adopted similar bans, and in November 2013, the Food and Drug Administration moved to ban trans fats nationwide. 

What Should I Do If I Suspect a Violation? 

If you suspect a local restaurant is in violation of the law, you should consider speaking with a local California consumer protection attorney, particularly if you have been a patron of the establishment. While your remedies may be limited, at the very least the violator will be held accountable and required to better protect the health and safety of the community.