How to Keep Your Banquet Menus Healthy
Trans fat, or trans fatty acids, are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
Why Should You Care?
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that trans fats could be a leading cause of obesity and heart disease. They also have been positively correlated with coronary artery disease, Alzheimer's disease, liver dysfunction, diabetes, cancer, and infertility.
Still, partially hydrogenated fats are widely used because they can be heated to a higher temperature, which means fried foods come out crispier. They're also generally less expensive and they increase the shelf life and flavor stability of foods.
What Is Being Done?
More restaurant and hotel companies are banning trans fats. Starbucks recently announced that it is phasing them out. Wendy's completed its switch last August, and now uses a soy-corn oil blend with virtually no trans fats. The switch was cost-neutral, and they haven't had problems with supply. Smaller, independent restaurants such as Sylvia's in Harlem found the switch from trans fats to be an easy transition as well. Sylvia's found a supplier that provides a trans fat-free version of the soy cooking oil that the restaurant had been using, at a price that was not much higher. Sylvia's also found that its fried chicken — its most popular dish — tasted the same with the healthier oil.
On the hotel side, fried foods in Marriott International hotels are no longer made using partially hydrogenated oils. This change, made in February 2007, was the last step in an eight-year effort to remove trans fats from food served at more than 2,300 Marriott International hotels in the U.S. and Canada. By April 2007, Loews Hotels had eliminated the use of trans fats in all frying oils, salad dressings, pastry items, and frozen foods. Last March, Royal Caribbean International became the first cruise line to eliminate trans fats from its menu.
If the suppliers you are considering have not banned trans fats, ask if they can adjust their menus. If enough planners request the elimination of trans fats, it will soon become the norm.
Patti J. Shock, CPCE, is professor and chairwoman, Tourism and Convention Administration Department, Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. To learn more about her, visit tca.unlv.edu/shock.html or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some cities and counties have taken action and banned trans fats. Among them:
NEW YORK CITY
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD.
ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y.
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y.
KING COUNTY, WASH.
Among the states where proposed bans are in the works: