Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pretty Awesome

I came across this article tonight and thought its subject matter pretty nifty. It would be nice if other cities would follow NYC's lead on their attack on Trans Fat. NYC recently passed a law that would require all fast food and chain restaurants to post calories and fat grams on their menus and billboards. I think this might help people make better decisions. Some would say with guilt, but that is usually how you stick to healthy eating. Others would say this is just another way the government is intruding into our personal lives. It is funny because most of these people do not actually take responsibility for their own lives. This issue also effects you even if you don't eat fast food or at chain restaurants. In a report released a couple weeks ago, the American government spends about $93 million dollars annually on health issues related to people being overweight and/or obese. Diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, sleep disorders, strokes, to name a few, are all related to the diets we eat. This fat epidemic has also been cited as one reason for soaring health care costs. When our tax dollars are being spent because others can't control what they eat, make healthy decisions, and/ or exercise, I believe the government has a right to intervene. Nuff said. Read the article.

Future chefs learn how to cut trans fat

By MICHELLE R. SMITH, Associated Press Writer Sat Jan 26, 4:47 PM ET

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The movement to ban artery-clogging trans fats from food has a new venue: cooking schools.

The places that train the people who will someday be feeding the rest of us are cutting back or eliminating artificial trans fats from their classrooms, saying they have a responsibility to teach students how to cook healthy foods.

"It's a very welcome change," said John O'Connell, 19, a sophomore culinary arts student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, one of the nation's largest cooking schools.

The school has started phasing out trans fats in its restaurants, hotels and dining services on four campuses around the country, and plans to be trans fat-free by the fall semester.

"We have made sure that we do the right thing," said Karl J. Guggenmos, dean of culinary education.

Other cooking schools, such as Le Cordon Bleu Schools North America, with 13 locations, are looking at reducing or eliminating trans fats, said Kirk T. Bachmann of Le Cordon Bleu, which is based in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., banned trans fats from nearly all its classes and restaurants in 2005.

Artificial trans fats are often found in oils used to deep-fry foods such as french fries and in baked goods. Bakers like to use shortenings with trans fats because cakes stay fresher longer, frosting is easier to use, and they cost less than butter.

Trans fats are created when hydrogen is added to liquid cooking oils to harden them. Along with saturated fats, they raise levels of so-called bad cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.

New York City banned cooking oils with trans fat from all restaurants last year, and several states and cities have debated similar measures. A number of fast-food restaurants chains are making the switch to trans fat-free cooking oils.

At the Culinary Institute of America, trans fat is one of the "hot button" topics, said school spokesman Stephan Hengst.

"Once they get out in the industry, they've got to understand it," he said of students.

The school has about 3,000 students at its main campus and three branches, and boasts such famous alumni as restaurateur Charlie Palmer and best-selling author and chef Anthony Bourdain.

Trans fats are banned at the school, Hengst said, except in advanced cake decorating classes where students work with trans fat-based shortening. But no one eats the cakes once they're decorated; they're thrown away.

At Johnson & Wales, it took months of work to get trans fats out of the school's curriculum. Their textbook has hundreds of recipes and about 50 included trans fats, said Wanda Cropper, who oversees the school's baking and pastry institute.

Eliminating it from some recipes was relatively easy — butter and olive oil are often good substitutes. But baking was different. Getting the right texture, color, smell and taste was tricky, and took a lot of trial and error, Cropper said.

"Baking is a science. You can't just substitute," she said.

Until recently, there weren't many good options for trans fat-free baking products, Guggenmos said. The school worked closely with its supplier to find ingredients that worked and to reformulate its recipes as needed.

Guggenmos estimates it will cost about 5 percent more for the trans fat-free ingredients, although that could ease as the market grows for such products.

Robbi Mills, 21, a 2007 graduate of Johnson & Wales who's now a manager at the university-owned Johansson's Bakery in downtown Providence, said trans fats weren't an issue when she was in school. The bakery is switching non-trans fats in the coming months.

"I didn't really have any exposure to it when I was in the labs," she said. "I wish I had known more."

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