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KFC to ban trans fats

31st October 2006

31102006_friedchicken.jpgFast-food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken - whose main course is deep fried - has announced that it will remove the artery-clogging substance trans fat from its fryers.

KFC said it would replace partially hydrogenated soybean oil with a type of soybean oil that does not contain trans fat at its 5,500 restaurants in the United States.

The conversion, which came after two years of testing, is expected to be completed by April. While trans fat will be eliminated from KFC’s chicken and its other fried products, it will remain in its biscuits, potpies and some desserts because a good alternative has not yet been found.

Officials at KFC, a subsidiary of Yum Brands of Louisville, Kentucky, said the change in cooking oils would have no impact on the taste of its food.

By getting rid of trans fat in its cooking oil, KFC follows the lead of Wendy’s International, the hamburger chain, which announced in June that it was eliminating trans fat from the cooking oil used at its United States restaurants.

Public health advocates hailed KFC’s decision as a major step in efforts to rid the American diet of trans fat. New York City and Chicago are considering regulations that would ban artificial trans fat from restaurants and many food companies have eliminated trans fat from their products.

Partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fat, which is considered especially unhealthy because it raises levels of bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol, clogging arteries and causing heart disease.

KFC’s announcement could put pressure on other fast-food restaurants to eliminate trans fat from its cooking oil. The pressure may be particularly acute for McDonald’s, which announced in 2002 that it was reducing trans fat in its cooking oil, but has since struggled to make the switch.

In a statement yesterday, Catherine Adams, McDonald’s vice president for worldwide quality, food safety and nutrition, said the company was “researching and testing oil alternatives and are encouraged with the progress we are making.?

David Palmer, an analyst at UBS Investment Research, said KFC’s decision should reduce its litigation risks. As for McDonald’s, he said there was considerable risk in changing the recipe for its French fries, given their revered status.

But he said there was also peer pressure and litigation risk for McDonald’s if it does not get rid of trans fat. Mr. Palmer said that if competitors were doing something good for people, “you don’t want to stick out as the one that is not acting.?

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