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Trans fats revolution continues at fast food outlets

Two major US-based fast food chains — Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell — have joined Wendy's and other fast food outlets in quitting their trans fats habits. In separate statements, KFC and Taco Bell announced their trans fats reduction programmes had reached fruition and their foods were now 100 per cent trans fat-free.

Yum Brands-owned KFC said three years of research and development work went into removing the increasingly vilified partially hydrogenated oils from its deep-fried chicken and potato-based menu items. Its famous Colonel Sanders mascot celebrated the feat by dining on the zero-trans fat chicken aboard a two-hour zero gravity flight, and the Kentucky-based company launched national TV adverts on April 30 to alert the public to its healthier status.

"KFC was able to transition to a zero grams trans fat cooking oil following years of research and a six-month transition process that resulted in a switch to a low linolenic soybean oil in place of the partially hydrogenated soybean oil previously used in KFC restaurants in the United States," KFC said. There are more than 14,000 KFC outlets in 80 countries worldwide.

"Last year we wanted to court martial Colonel Sanders but today we salute him," said Washington DC-based better nutrition lobby group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which had threatened KFC with legal action over its failure to remove the oils from its menu.

"KFC has now completed its conversion from partially hydrogenated frying oil to heart-healthy soybean oil, and now KFC's fried chicken is trans fat-free," said CSPI executive director, Michael F. Jacobson. "KFC's fried chicken still has some saturated fat and way too much sodium, but being trans fat-free, it is much healthier for hearts and arteries. That said, the company needs to get the trans fat out of its pot pies and biscuits, and reduce sodium across the board. I also hope that positive consumer response to this announcement hastens the speed with which Burger King, McDonald's, and other fast-food companies abandon partially hydrogenated oils in favor of healthy alternatives."

California-based Taco Bell said it had converted its 4,200 US single brand restaurants to a trans fat-free canola oil and 1,400 multibrand locations to a low linolenic soybean oil. Taco Bell spent more than two years working on trans fats reduction before implementing its complete removal programme in November, 2006.

"Converting to a zero grams trans fat frying oil is yet another chapter in the book of Taco Bell food innovation," said Greg Creed, president of Taco Bell Corp.

Trans fats reduction initiatives by fast food manufacturers as well as food companies like Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo reflect the growing ease of trans fats replacement as ingredients suppliers develop a range of soy, canola and palm oil alternatives that come with few taste, texture and shelf-life tariffs.

Trans fat bans or restrictions already exist in Denmark, South Africa, Canada and Israel, and the UK and Australia have recommended mandatory trans fats on-product or menu labelling similar to that in place in the US.

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