Burger King Hit With Trans Fat Lawsuit

CSPI Says Burger King is Biggest Chain Without Firm Plans to Convert to

Safer Alternatives to Partially Hydrogenated Oils

May 16, 2007, 01:00 ET from Center for Science in the Public Interest

    WASHINGTON, May 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- By using partially
 hydrogenated oil, Burger King is knowingly increasing its customers' risk
 of heart disease and early death, according to a lawsuit filed today by the
 nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI is asking a
 District of Columbia Superior Court judge to order the restaurant chain to
 stop using the deadly trans-fat-laden ingredient, or at least to require
 prominent warning notices on Burger King's menu boards. According to CSPI,
 Burger King is the biggest restaurant chain that is not fully committed to
 getting rid of the artificial trans fat found in partially hydrogenated
     In 2006, Wendy's became the first big fast-food chain to switch away
 from trans fat. McDonald's, which was sued in 2003 for still using
 artificial trans fat frying oil despite a 2002 promise to phase it out, has
 begun using trans- fat-free oil in some cities and plans to complete its
 conversion by the end of 2008. Starbucks replaced the partially
 hydrogenated oil in almost all of its pastries after news of a potential
 CSPI lawsuit was reported. Last month, KFC announced that it completed its
 conversion to trans-fat-free deep-frying, a move accelerated in part by a
 CSPI-initiated lawsuit, which the group withdrew from after KFC announced
 its intentions.
     While Burger King will comply with new requirements in New York City
 and Philadelphia not to use artificial trans fat in those cities, diners in
 the rest of the country will be subjected to high levels of trans fat.
     "Despite the moves of its competitors and the well-known dangers of
 artificial trans fat, it is unfortunate that Burger King is still using
 partially hydrogenated oil in fried foods and other menu items," said CSPI
 executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Some of its meals contain three,
 four, or five times as much trans fat as is safe to consume in an entire
 day. I hope that this lawsuit will spur Burger King to quickly eliminate
 the trans fat and, in the meantime, to warn its customers that it's there."
     Numerous fried and non-fried foods at Burger King have alarming levels
 of trans fat, according to CSPI. A King-size Onion Rings has 6 grams of
 trans fat. A regular-size order of Chicken Tenders with a large order of
 French fries has 8 grams of trans. A Sausage Biscuit with a large order of
 Hash Browns has an astounding 18 grams of trans fat -- more than someone
 should consume in 9 days.
     Unlike other fats, the artificial trans fats found in partially
 hydrogenated oil exact a double whammy on arteries by raising the LDL
 ("bad") cholesterol and simultaneously lowering the HDL ("good")
 cholesterol. Increasing trans fat consumption by just 2 percent of calories
 is associated with as much as a 23 percent increased risk of developing
 coronary heart disease, according to researchers at the Harvard School of
 Public Health. Both the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and the
 American Heart Association recommend getting no more than 1 percent of
 calories from trans fat, which works out to just two grams of trans fat for
 someone on a 2,000-calorie daily diet. That two grams is about what one
 could expect from the smaller amounts of naturally occurring trans fat in
 milk and meat products, leaving virtually no room for anything partially
 hydrogenated, according to CSPI.
     This week, Montgomery County, Md., became the first county in the
 country to enact regulations phasing out artificial trans fat in
 restaurants, and Albany County, N.Y.'s legislature passed a similar law
 that is expected to be approved soon by the county executive. Several
 months ago, New York City and Philadelphia became the first cities to pass
 laws getting artificial trans fat out of restaurants operating there. New
 York's regulation begins to take effect for deep-frying in July.
     CSPI will be represented in its lawsuit by Stephen Gardner, its
 litigation director, with Steven N. Berk of the law firm of Chavez &
 Gertler acting as co-counsel. The suit charges that Burger King is in
 violation of the District of Columbia's Consumer Protection Procedures Act
 by selling foods laden with trans fat and by failing to let consumers know
 -- an omission that misleads the public assuming the items are safe.
     Burger King has more than 7,300 U.S. locations, and global sales of
 more than $11 billion.
     "Virtually every major restaurant chain in the country is working
 overtime to replace artificial trans fats with healthier oils, but Burger
 King can't be bothered," said Gardner. "Litigation has proven to be an
 effective means at accelerating the pace with which restaurant chains are
 getting rid of trans fat, and we hope the court brings Burger King to his
 senses in this case."

SOURCE Center for Science in the Public Interest