In the the wake of a lawsuit seeking to blameKFC for health problems, the leading fried chicken chain on Monday said it is converting all of its 5,500 restaurants in the United States to a zero grams trans fat cooking oil.
The new oil, a low linolenic soybean oil, will replace the partially hydrogenated soybean oil KFC currently uses. The transition is underway now and will be completed nationwide by the end of April 2007.
“This is a win-win for our customers,” said KFC President Gregg Dedrick, noting that the conversion follows more than two years of extensive testing to identify an oil that offers the same taste as its original recipes with zero grams of trans fat.
Trans Fat 101
Win-win is an accurate assessment, with the known health dangers of trans fats and the legal liabilities KFC was facing for its use of them.
A new study from Harvard Medical School reveals that trans fats could contribute to weight gain more than other types of fat. Harvard’s research has also linked even small amounts of trans fats to an increased risk of heart disease.
One Harvard study found more than twice the risk of heart attacks among those who ate partially hydrogenated oils, which are high in trans fats, compared to those with diets low in trans fats.
KFC is garnering praise for the move. “I congratulate KFC on their decision to switch to a zero trans fat cooking oil,” said Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States. He encouraged other companies to follow KFC’s lead.
KFC’s decision to eliminate trans fats also frees it from at least one lawsuit. TheCenter for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is dropping the lawsuit it filed against the chicken chain in June. The suit aimed to compel the chain to stop using trans fats.
“Partially hydrogenated oil is a discredited ingredient that shouldn’t be in the food supply anymore,” CSPI spokesperson Jeff Cronin told TechNewsWorld. “While fried chicken will never be a health food, frying it in trans fat free oil will at least make it safer to enjoy for your heart.”
Wendy’s was the first to eliminate partially hydrogenated oil from its kitchen. Several fast casual chains, including Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday and Legal Seafood have jumped on the bandwagon. However, CSPI is not satisfied.
“The question now is when are McDonald’s and Burger King going to follow suit?” Cronin asked. “Burger King and McDonald’s are still stuck in the past. Any restaurant that uses partially hydrogenated oils should consider the possibility [of CPSI filing a lawsuit against them].”
Once the transition is complete, KFC’s most popular signature products, including Original Recipe and Extra Crispy chicken, will contain zero grams of trans fat. Other products that will have zero grams of trans fat include Crispy Strips, Wings, Boneless Wings, Honey BBQ, Buffalo and Crispy Snacker Sandwiches, Popcorn Chicken, Twisters and Potato Wedges.
Many KFC menu items today already contain zero grams of trans fat, including: all Tender Roast Products, Honey BBQ Sandwich, Honey BBQ Snacker, and many side dishes such as Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Corn on the Cob and Coleslaw.