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CSPI sues Burger King for knowingly harming customers with trans fats

Thursday, October 04, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: Burger King, trans fats, health news

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(NewsTarget) The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a lawsuit recently against Burger King for knowingly harming its customers, increasing their risk of heart disease and early death by refusing to stop cooking with partially hydrogenated oils.

Cooking oils are artificially hydrogenated to give them a longer shelf life. A side effect of the process, however, is the artificial creation of trans fats -- a type of fat that lowers the body's levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and raises its levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. According to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, an increase of trans fat intake equivalent to just 2 percent of one's daily calorie intake (4 grams of trans fats, for someone on a 2,000 calorie diet) can increase a person's risk of coronary heart disease by up to 23 percent.

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of 2 grams of trans fats for people on a 2,000-calorie diet. According to CSPI, this is roughly the amount of trans fats that naturally occur in a meat- and dairy-consuming diet that is free of hydrogenated oils.

Many Burger King menu items deliver vastly more than this amount in a single meal. According to CSPI, a King-size order of onion rings contains 6 grams; a regular order of chicken tenders with a large order of French fries contains 8 grams; and a sausage biscuit with a large order of hash browns contains 18 grams of trans fats -- nine days worth.

CSPI says that Burger King is the largest restaurant chain in the United States without a plan to phase out partially hydrogenated oils. Wendy's eliminated the oils in 2006, Starbucks and KFC eliminated them in many of their products this year, and McDonald's has committed to phasing them out by 2008.

"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," said CSPI's executive director, Michael F. Jacobson. "I hope that this lawsuit will spur Burger King to quickly eliminate the trans fat."

The lawsuit asks the court to require Burger King to phase out the oils, or to display prominent warning labels about them on its menus.

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