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Fast-food giant KFC sued over trans fats

The US consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has sued fast-food chicken chain KFC over its use of trans fats. Its suit, lodged in a Washington DC court, demands KFC better inform consumers that many KFC foods are high in trans fats or ceases using the oils that have been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease altogether.

"Grilled, baked or roasted chicken is a healthy food — and even fried chicken can be trans fat-free," said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson. "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."

KFC said the action was 'frivolous' and that it would 'vigorously defend our position.' 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," spokeswoman Laurie Schalow said. "We have been reviewing alternative oil options, but there are a number of factors to consider, including maintaining KFC's unique taste and flavour of Colonel Sanders' original recipe, supply availability and transportation, among others."

The action comes as another US-based fast food chain, Wendy's, committed to significantly reducing or removing trans fats in many of its items. McDonalds gave a similar commitment in 2003 but failed to deliver on its targets and ended up paying $7 million to the American Heart Association last year as a settlement.

CSPI has attracted criticism for the spate of legal action it has instigated against the food industry. The US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (CILR) has labelled the CSPI a narrow interest group whose many lawsuits perpetuate "a dangerous climate that only invites more frivolous legal speculation and illustrates the need for major reform."

But CSPI's clout cannot be discounted with companies such as Tropicana and Frito-Lay negotiating out-of-court settlements rather than face its claims in court. In regard to the current action, CSPI said "neither industry nor government has acted. Hence this litigation."

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