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Judge sides with Cleveland in its trans fat ban

(Reuters) – An Ohio judge has struck down a law designed to block Cleveland’s ban on restaurants using cooking oils that contain trans fats, handing the city a victory in its food fight with state lawmakers.

Cleveland went to court to challenge the state law passed last year. In a ruling issued on Monday, Cuyahoga County Judge Nancy Russo found that the state law was an improper attempt to stop the city from exercising its home rule powers under the Ohio constitution.

The battle in Ohio comes amid heightened attention on steps being taken by local U.S. governments trying to fight obesity. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg last month proposed a ban on large-size sugary soft drinks in his city, provoking outrage by the beverage industry.

Many commercial fried foods like doughnuts and French fries and baked goods like crackers, cookies and cakes contain trans fats.

Last year, the city of Cleveland banned foods containing industrially produced trans fat from being used in preparation of any menu item or served in any food shop – except food being served directly to customers in a sealed package.

Soon after, the Ohio legislature passed a law pre-empting local governments from restricting food service operations based on nutrition information.

A handful of other states, including Arizona, have prohibited local governments from regulating food marketing, including incentives like toys.

The case in the Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County is City of Cleveland vs. State of Ohio, CV-12-772529.