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UPDATE 2: NYC First To Ban Trans Fat At Restaurants

Here's the latest update on the trans-fat ban: New York is about to become the first large American city to strictly limit trans-fats in all of its restaurants. The city's board of health voted to eliminate the unhealthy oil from nearly 20,000 eateries, from street corner vendors to the most expensive dining establishments.

So why does the health world hate trans-fat so much?

That was the debate on today’s “Power Lunch” between Michael Jacobson--from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Jeff Stier with the American Council on Science & Health.

Background: Trans-fats are formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats by adding hydrogen in a process called hydrogenation. A common example of this is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is used for frying and baking and turns up in processed foods like cookies, pizza dough and crackers. Trans fats--which are favored because of their long shelf life, are also found in pre-made blends like pancake and hot chocolate mix.

Michael Jacobson supports the decision. He explains that the government is not saying you can’t eat French fries or hamburgers - they just want them prepared with a fat that’s not so damaging to the body - so what they’ve done is prohibit the use or partially hydrogenated oil - the source of transfat. He says, according to a Harvard study, tens of thousands of deaths will be prevented by eliminating trans-fats from people’s diet.

Jeff Stier opposed the decision. He argues that the next thing you know is they will ban high fructose corn syrup. He says consumers should have a choice. He’d prefer to see the city government focus on the overall diet and not one part of it. “It’s not the role of the government to take away choices…they should inform the public to help consumers can make an educated choice.”

The FDA estimates the average American eats 4.7 pounds of trans-fats each year.

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  • Sue Herera is a founding member of CNBC, helping to launch the network in 1989. She is co-anchor of "Power Lunch."

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