Bay State Restaurants Still Using Artificial Trans Fat Despite Health Risks

New Test Results Indicate Need for Statewide Phase-out, Says CSPI

Mar 13, 2008, 01:00 ET from Center for Science in the Public Interest

    BOSTON, March 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Even though artificial
 trans fat promotes heart attacks and early deaths, major chains --
 including Massachusetts-based Friendly's -- are still serving foods
 containing partially hydrogenated oil -- the only artificial source of
 trans fat. But chains as diverse as McDonald's, Legal Sea Foods, and Uno
 Chicago Grill use healthful oils for deep-frying, which, the Center for
 Science in the Public Interest says, shows that any chain could easily
 serve foods free of artificial trans fat.
     CSPI says that the trans fat levels found in fried foods at Burger King
 and Friendly's make a compelling case for cities and state legislatures to
 pass measures that would require restaurants to phase out their use of
 artificial trans fat. The city of Boston's health department is holding a
 hearing on a citywide trans-fat phase-out today, and a statewide bill,
 sponsored by Rep. Peter Koutoujian (D-Waltham), is pending. Brookline
 passed a prohibition on restaurants' use of artificial trans fat in June.
 Elsewhere, New York City (,
 Philadelphia (, and several
 counties have required restaurants to stop serving foods with significant
 amounts of artificial trans fat.
     According to independent laboratory tests
 ( commissioned by CSPI, a
 5.5-ounce serving of French fries from Friendly's has a decidedly
 unfriendly two grams of trans fat -- an entire day's worth. The fries
 highest in trans fat were found at Burger King: 6 grams of trans fat in a
 4.6-ounce large order, according to both CSPI's test results and the
 company web site. The trans fat could come from frying oil used in the
 restaurant, the par-frying oil used by the chains' suppliers, or both.
     "With all the medical evidence we have about artificial trans fat and
 heart disease, and with supplies of natural trans-fat-free oils and
 shortenings in such abundance, there is truly no excuse for Burger King,
 Friendly's, and other chains to be using this dangerous substance," said
 CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "One advantage it has is that
 it can be used over and over again in the deep-fryer without being changed
 as often. But considering that it clogs arteries and shortens lives, it's
 just not worth it."
     Massachusetts voters seem to agree, according to a recent 7News/Suffolk
 University poll ( That poll
 found that two-thirds of Massachusetts voters are concerned about
 artificial trans fat and favor the bill to phase it out of the state's
     "The tide is definitely turning toward the use of healthier cooking
 oils, with many restaurants voluntarily making the switch to healthier
 alternatives," Koutoujian said. "Massachusetts residents understand that by
 forgoing the use of artificial trans fats, we can live healthier lives
 without negatively affecting the taste of any foods."
     Artificial trans fat is more dangerous than any other fat in food
 because, like saturated fat, it raises one's LDL, the "bad" kind of
 cholesterol that promotes heart disease, but unlike saturated fat, it also
 lowers one's HDL, the "good" kind of cholesterol that guards against heart
 disease. For that reason, leading trans-fat researcher Walter Willett,
 professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public
 Health, calls trans fat a "metabolic poison." Federal rules now require
 trans fat to be listed on food labels, a move that has spurred most large
 makers of packaged foods to switch oils. Rep. Koutoujian's bill, like
 others pending around the country, only applies to the trans fat that comes
 from artificial sources and not the small amounts that occur naturally in
 some foods.
     Among the big three national burger chains, Burger King is the only one
 that has not released a timeline for phasing out artificial trans fat. A
 King-size order of onion rings has 6 grams of trans fat, according to the
 company. A meal of a regular-size order of Chicken Tenders with a large
 order of French fries would have eight grams of trans -- or more trans fat
 than should safely be consumed in four days. CSPI's litigation unit is
 suing Burger King ( in
 Washington, D.C., to seek an injunction preventing the company from using
 partially hydrogenated oil.
     The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit health
 advocacy group based in Washington, DC, that focuses on nutrition, food
 safety, and pro-health alcohol policies. CSPI is supported by the 900,000
 U.S. and Canadian subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter and by
 foundation grants.

SOURCE Center for Science in the Public Interest