Multinational fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has joined the growing list of food companies, retailers and government bodies to move against trans fats by announcing plans to phase them out in its 5,500 US restaurants by April 2007.
The move follows other fast-food chains such as Wendy's, which has similarly removed the cholesterol-raising oil from its menus. KFC's move is expected to add pressure on McDonald's to make good its rescinded 2003 commitment to replace trans fats with healthier oils in its foods. McDonald's ended up paying $7 million to a heart-health charity and committing $1.5 million to trans fats education rather than removing the partially hydrogenated oils from its menu.
But the anti-trans fats movement has grown so strong — with bans already in place in Denmark, Canada and Israel — that neither McDonald's nor any other major food company — may be able to hold out for much longer. In June, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) brought a class-action suit against KFC for using undeclared trans fats. CSPI has withdrawn from the legal action in the wake of KFC's announcement, but stated it would sue again if KFC reneged on its pledge as McDonalds did in 2003.
"What are McDonald's and Burger King waiting for now?" asked CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "If KFC, which deep-fries almost everything, can get the artificial trans fat out of its frying oil, anyone can. Colonel Sanders deserves a bucket full of praise."
KFC's decision comes a year after US food items were required by the Food and Drug Administration to have their trans fat content listed on pack. South Korea has announced a similar labelling initiative beginning December 2007. The cities of New York and Chicago have proposed banning trans fats from their restaurants, and other jurisdictions have signalled similar intentions.
Despite this activity, The Hartman Group, a US-based researcher, reported that bans or labelling requirements for trans fats in restaurants would have only a minimal impact on consumer behaviour. A separate survey sent to more than 1,000 New York restaurant owners found a majority of them did not know which of the oils they used contained trans fats.
The Food and Drug Administration says the average American eats 4.7 pounds of trans fats a year.