Stock’s Bakery in Port Richmond was not thrilled about having to take the shortening out of its 88-year-old pound cake recipe. Holmesburg Bakery felt the same way about its Jewish apple cake. They say that this change will decrease the flavor of their baked goods, and will destroy their legacy and reputation.
Nevertheless, in February of 2007, Philadelphia banned the use of oil containing more than half a gram of trans fat per serving. The ban was implemented in 2 stages – the first prohibits eateries from frying foods in trans fat-based products or serving trans fat-rich spreads. The second stage bans trans fat use in commercial kitchens across the board. Prepackaged goods with clear labels, however, are exempt.
The ban, drafted in Section 6-307 of the Philadelphia Health Code, was approved by the Philadelphia City Council, signed into law by the mayor, and is enforced by the Department of Public Health. Although health inspectors will note trans fat violations in their reports, there are no fines imposed. Violations are termed “general” as opposed to “critical,” meaning there are no immediate health risks to the community.
In addition to Philadelphia restaurants, the ban also applies to Philadelphia bars, cafeterias in schools and businesses, caterers, mobile food vending carts, senior and childcare centers, hospitals, concession stands, soup kitchens, and street fairs. No Philadelphia lawyer has stepped forward to oppose the ban.
Shortening was invented around the turn of the century by researchers trying to develop a cheaper candle wax, and can be used for shining wood utensils, preventing diaper rash, and as makeup base or hair grease. The problem with shortening is that it contains trans fat, which clogs up arteries at a higher rate than natural fat or cholesterol. As the present anti-trans fat laws around the country indicate, mom-and-pop bakeries such as Stock’s will probably have to accept the change back to natural oil and butter.