The Daily Illini

Trans fats ban in C-U not likely

Freshmen Thibaud Smerko in LAS, right, and Richard Otap in Engineering, left, eat lunch at the Allen Hall cafeteria in Urbana on Oct. 9. Dan Hollander The Daily Illini

Freshmen Thibaud Smerko in LAS, right, and Richard Otap in Engineering, left, eat lunch at the Allen Hall cafeteria in Urbana on Oct. 9. Dan Hollander The Daily Illini

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

Don’t worry: That late night dorm cafe cheeseburger is not going anywhere.

A ban on trans fats does not appear to be on the horizon for the cities of Champaign and Urbana, or for University dining services. This is after both New York and the Chicago City Council proposed legislation that would make it illegal in some restaurants to serve food with trans fats.

Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, are put into foods to give them a longer shelf life. They’re found in many different types of food, including crackers, store-bought pastries, butters and margarines, and some cereals.

Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing, said that since so many foods have trans fats, it would be impossible to remove them from the dining halls.

However, the dining services nutritionist told Ruby that “it’s not possible to totally eliminate trans fat from your diet,” Ruby said.

The University housing Web site has some nutritional information about classic menu items; however, the database is not complete. Often, the trans fats listing for a food will be blank.

Ruby said that dining services plans to begin a new program next semester to give students more complete nutritional information online.

Sophomores in LAS Walter Pituc and Sarah Uhl said they would not support a trans fats ban in the dining halls.

“I don’t believe they should legislate (a trans fat ban),” Pituc said. “People should make choices for themselves.”

But Uhl said that online nutritional information is inconvenient.

“It would be nice if they had nutrition information in the dining hall,” Uhl said.

Some items sold at A La Carte locations, like late night, do not have nutritional information listed on the Web site, but Ruby said that if the item is prepackaged, nutritional information should be listed on the packaging. She also stressed that students who want to improve their diets should be looking at other factors besides trans fats.

Like the University, both the cities of Champaign and Urbana are not planning to impose a ban on trans fats.

“It would probably come in line after banning cigarettes, alcohol and walking,” said Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart. “I don’t even know what a trans fat is.”

He said that some are too quick to ban anything that could pose a threat.

“If a guy cuts his hand on a knife, people will be looking to ban knives,” he said.

Charlie Smyth, an Urbana city councilman who represents the 1st ward, which includes most of the University, holds no hope for a trans fats ban.

“Fat chance,” said Charlie Smyth, when asked whether the city would consider such a ban. “I’m much more interested in things that have a direct impact on a person’s behavior. We’ve got a lot of other things going on.”

Becky Roach, a visiting teaching associate for the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said trans fats are similar to saturated fats in that they raise bad cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease. She emphasized that there is no known safe amount of trans fat.

“The best way to avoid trans fats is cooking for yourself,” she said.

While Congress passed legislation in January that required companies to list trans fat in the nutritional information of a product, Roach said that companies were allowed to list trans fat content as 0 percent if the food item contains .5 grams or less. So, even though a product may advertise as being “trans fat free,” consumers should look for partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredients list to be sure.

“I think people know that trans fats are bad for you,” Smyth said. “We should let people make up their own minds.”

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