Vendors avoid trans fats at county fairs

July 13, 2010 6:17:52 PM PDT
From corn dogs and fried Twinkies to funnel cakes, most people don't expect to find health food at the fair. But the state of California is cracking down on vendors who violate who violate a new state law on trans fats.

The California State Fair is not for the calorie-conscious, but in compliance with a new state law that began in January banning trans fats in most foods, vendors will have to start using healthier, less artery-clogging oils.

"I think it's good on the one hand, but I think people come to the fair to have greasy food," food vendor Rodney Wright said.

To make sure the fair's 150 or so food vendors comply, inspectors will be out every day checking on the oils in use.

Jason Smalley is making the rounds on the eve of opening day, giving warnings. He is checking oil deliveries too with most labels indicating zero trans fats.

"It has to be less than .5 grams of artificial trans fat per serving," he said.

Anything more could result in a shutdown, although vendors are given a chance to switch oils. But the smell of grease in the air, the corn dogs, fries -- that's the allure of a state fair; and fair-goers aren't so sure trans fat-free oil matters.

"It's kind of silly. I mean, you come here exactly to eat junk food. If you're going to have a deep-fried Twinkie, what does it matter what grease it's fried in?" fair visitor Michele Baird said.

Some vendors try to offer healthy alternatives, but the numbers from a vendor during the Alameda County Fair suggest the demand isn't always there.

"We probably sold 12 veggie burgers compared to 2,000-3,000 hamburgers," Wright said.

The trans fat ban on baked goods doesn't take effect until next year, so the funnel cakes this year could still have trans fat in them.


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