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Trans Fat Lawsuit
The City of Cleveland filed a lawsuit in state court today, challenging the State of Ohio’s recent attempt to prohibit Cleveland and other Ohio cities from restricting the use of unsafe industrially produced trans fats in the foods served to customers by local restaurants and food shops. The Complaint for Declaratory Judgment is based on Cleveland’s status as a home rule municipality and asserts that the State’s prohibition on local food regulations is
“The health and well-being of Cleveland is the responsibility of the City of Cleveland and we are taking proactive steps to help make everyone in Cleveland healthier,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “One of those steps was a ban on industrially produced trans fat in local restaurants and food shops. The state’s subsequent amendment to the Ohio Revised Code taking away our ability to enforce this important health regulation is yet another attempt by the State to erode the Home Rule Authority that we have a constitutional right to.”
In April of 2011, Cleveland City Council enacted CCO 241.42 as part of the Healthy Cleveland Initiative banning the sale of non-packaged foods containing industrially produced trans fat by local food shops for most foods effective January 1, 2013 and July 1, 2013 for foods with yeast dough and cake batter, like doughnuts. It also, requires a local food shop to maintain original labels or other documentation concerning the trans fat content of certain designated food ingredients used by the food shops including shortening, margarines, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils; and authorizes the City’s Director of Public Health to make rules and regulations to enforce the trans fat ban. Packaged retail items sold in grocery stores are not included in this regulation, even if they contain trans fats.
“Trans fats are not essential to our health and in fact do not promote health,” said Councilman Joe Cimperman, Chair of Cleveland City Council’s Public Health Committee. “Research by the Center for Disease Control and the American Heart Association demonstrates that trans fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks.”
The City is challenging the State’s amendments to the budget bill because the City believes the amendments are a violation of the City’s Home Rule Authority under Section 3, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution. This provision states that “municipalities shall have authority to exercise all purposes of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations as are not in conflict with the generals laws.” The State included an amendment in its Biennial Budget bill that expanded the definition of “food nutrition information” in a manner intended to prohibit the City and other municipalities from protecting the local public health by banning the use and sale of demonstrably unhealthy food ingredients such as industrially produced trans fats.
“The State of Ohio is on notice that we will not stand for their infringing upon our right to protect the wellbeing of Clevelanders,” said Cleveland City Council majority leader Phyllis Cleveland. “We as a city have a legal right to Home Rule Authority and cannot let the state diminish our ability to govern our residents on this and other matters.” Mayor Jackson announced this legal challenge today at a City Hall press
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