KFC, which recently came under fire for the high trans fat content of its fried chicken products, joins hamburger giant Wendy's in removing trans fats from its products. Fast-food restaurants have been targeted as significant contributors to the global obesity epidemic, especially because many fried products use high-trans-fat oils that can clog the arteries and cause heart disease.
Trans fatty acids increase "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which can cause a wide range of health disorders, including heart attacks and cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last year that beginning Jan. 1, 2006, all food manufacturers would be required to list the trans fat content of their products on nutrition labels.
McDonald's Corp. announced in 2002 that it planned to reduce the trans fat content of some of its products, falling short of a pledge to eliminate the unhealthy oils. Though the fast-food chain has introduced healthier options -- including salads and fruit side dishes -- it has not eliminated hydrogenated oils from its menu, claiming it has yet to find an alternative that works as well as the trans fat oils.
KFC said it plans to begin using low-linolenic soybean oil -- which contains zero trans fats -- in all its 5,500 U.S. locations. The decision follows a two-year trial to find a cooking oil with the same characteristics as the trans fat oils.
KFC's most popular products -- Original Recipe and Extra Crispy chicken -- will be trans-fat-free, as will other menu favorites, including Crispy Strips, Popcorn Chicken, Snacker sandwiches, Potato Wedges and chicken wings.
Consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of "Poison In the Food: Hydrogenated Oils," says KFC is "taking a step in the right direction" in removing trans fats from its products. However, Adams warns that trans fats are not the only harmful ingredients in fast food.
"Removing trans fats doesn't make fried fast foods healthy," Adams said. "They still contain acrylamides -- toxic chemicals formed during high-heat cooking that are known to increase the risk of several types of cancers."