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updated: 6/7/2011 1:03 PM

Lawmaker says he'll bring back trans-fat ban

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Associated Press

CHICAGO -- An Illinois lawmaker who sponsored failed legislation to ban artificial trans fats from restaurants said he'll try again with a version excluding baked goods such as doughnuts.

Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Chicago Democrat, told The Associated Press he will attempt to raise awareness about the artery-clogging effects of trans fats before reintroducing the bill later this year or next year. He acknowledged that a trans-fats ban may have been difficult for small businesses.

The Illinois House passed the bill but it failed in the Senate, even with a Senate amendment excluding bakeries.

Ford said some senators didn't take the bill seriously.

"They took it more as a joke," Ford said. "I went over there to watch the debate. Some senators were saying, 'Please don't take away my trans fats.'"

Illinois would have been the second state after California to pass a trans-fat ban. Opponents of such laws say the food industry already is eliminating the ingredient on its own.

Meat and dairy products contain natural trans fats. Synthetic trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils, making them solid at room temperature and less likely to spoil.

Scientific evidence links artificial trans fats with heart disease. In 2006, the federal government began requiring packaged foods to list trans fats on nutrition labels. The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines call for keeping levels as low as possible.

Ford's west side district includes so-called "food deserts" -- neighborhoods where it's difficult to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or find restaurants with low-fat menu items. Blacks are more likely than whites to die of heart disease, making the issue a concern in Ford's district.