Illinois senators are considering a bill that nixes artificial trans-fats in foods sold in Illinois, but lawmakers already are discussing exemptions to the proposal.

Illinois senators developed a bill banning artificial trans-fats in foods, but lawmakers already are discussing exemptions to the proposal. The bill, HB1600, would ban artificial trans-fats in food sold in Illinois by Jan. 1, 2013, including food sold in school vending machines. Government-run cafeterias have until 2016 to ban trans-fats.

The Senate Public Health Committee adopted one change in early June that would exempt some baked goods and pastries from the ban, but other exemptions will be considered before the bill is put before the full Senate for a final vote.

“We're trying to fine-tune it,” says Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), the Senate sponsor of the bill. Another senator suggested an exemption be made for foodservice operations that are run by organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Kansas City, Mo.

The exemption adopted by the committee is specifically aimed at small, family-owned bakeries, says Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago). But some bakers aren’t enthused. They’re saying that if artificial trans-fats are banned, small bakeries will be at a competitive disadvantage versus industrial bakeries. For some bakery products, like icing, there is no acceptable substitute for trans-fats, they say. Trans-fats are thought to play a role in a wide variety of health woes, including high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, strokes and diabetes. The food industry, however, uses trans-fats because they can add to the shelf life of food and enhance flavor.

"When it's 92°, if you aren't using trans-fats (in icing), your wedding cake is not getting to the hall," says John Roeser III, owner of Roeser's Bakery in Chicago. "It will melt."  Roeser says that people should be allowed to consume products containing trans-fats if that is their decision. He says he will listen to what his customers want. "If my customers want me to go trans-fat-free, I'm going to do everything I can to get there," he says.