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F.ood & H.ealth : & P.olitics Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

KFC sued over trans fat in cooking oil
By Kathy Jones
Jun 19, 2006, 13:33

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19 June, ( - The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nutrition advocacy group, is suing Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for frying its chicken in cooking oils that contain trans fats. These fats are known to raise the levels of "bad" cholesterol, which is believed to increase the risk of heart disease.

The CSPI says that a three-piece extra-crispy combo meal contains as much as 15 g of trans fat, about seven times the recommended level of 2 g per day. The suit was filed in the Washington, DC-based Superior Court and asks that KFC either stop using trans fat-laden oil or at least begin clearly labeling their menu items that contain partially hydrogenated cooking oils.

Responding to the lawsuit, KFC said that it was completely without merit. "All KFC products are safe to eat and meet or exceed all government regulations, and we take health and safety issues very seriously," the group said in a press release.

"We provide a variety of menu choices and provide nutrition information, including trans fat values, on our website and in our restaurants so consumers can make informed choices before they purchase our products," it added. "This is a frivolous lawsuit completely without merit and we intend to vigorously defend our position."

In its statement KFC also defends using the oil. "We have been reviewing alternative oil options, but there are a number of factors to consider including maintaining KFC’s unique taste and flavor of Colonel Sanders' Original Recipe, supply availability and transportation, among others."

But CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson maintained that chicken can be cooked in a healthy way and using trans fat oil was not a necessity, "But coated in breading and fried in partially hydrogenated oil, this otherwise healthy food becomes something that can quite literally take years off your life. KFC knows this, yet it recklessly puts its customers at risk of a Kentucky Fried Coronary."

The lawsuit has been brought by one Arthur Hoyte, of Rockville, Maryland. He is a retired physician, who claims to have purchased fried chicken at KFC outlets without knowing that they are cooked in partially hydrogenated oil.

"If I had known that KFC uses an unnatural frying oil, and that their food was so high in trans fat, I would have reconsidered my choices," said Dr. Hoyte. "I am bringing this suit because I want KFC to change the way it does business. And I'm doing it for my son and others' kids-so that they may have a healthier, happier, trans-fat-free future."

According to CSPI, KFC products are laden with trans fats. Just one Extra Crispy breast has 4.5 grams of trans fat. A large order of Popcorn Chicken has 7 grams of trans fat, and KFC's Pot Pie contains 14 grams of trans fats.

So what's the big deal? Why are trans fats in the news?

* According to the Food and Drug Administration, trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil--a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats.]
* Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
* Trans fat, like saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, raises the LDL cholesterol that increases your risk for Coronary Heart Disease. Americans consume on average 4 to 5 times as much saturated fat as trans fat in their diets.
* Health experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
The FDA recommends that consumers should limit their consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet. Some of the other recommendations regarding fats in foods are:
# Choose alternative fats. Replace saturated and trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not raise LDL cholesterol levels and have health benefits when eaten in moderation. Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils.
# Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and foods like nuts and fish.
# Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are lower than the amounts in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.
# Consider fish. Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.
# Choose lean meats, such as poultry without the skin and not fried and lean beef and pork, not fried, with visible fat trimmed.
# Ask before you order when eating out. A good tip to remember is to ask which fats are being used in the preparation of your food when eating or ordering out.

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