McDonald’s Getting Fried Over Trans Fats
By George Anderson
A Danish research study of fast foods from around the world found that there were wide variations in the amount of trans fats in the same menu items, depending on where they were sold.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, KFC hot wings and fried potatoes from two other chains.
According to the research, a large combo of fries and McNuggets at a McDonald’s in New York contained 10.2 grams of trans fat. The same items in Spain, Russia and the Czech Republic had three grams of trans fat. In Denmark, the trans fat content was only 0.33 grams.
There were even variations within the same country, according to the research. In New York, for example, a large order of fries in McDonald’s contained 30 percent more trans fat than the same order placed in a restaurant in Atlanta.
One of the researchers on the project, Dr. Steen Stender, a cardiologist and former head of the Danish Nutrition Council, told The Associated Press, “I was very surprised to see a difference in trans fatty acids in these uniform products. It’s such an easy risk factor to remove.”
The consumption of trans fats has shown to reduce good cholesterol while increasing bad cholesterol. Consumption of trans fats has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.
“Per gram, it is more harmful than any other kind of fat,” said Dr. Stender. “It’s a metabolic poison.”
McDonald’s said any variation in trans fat content is a result of restaurants tailoring product to meet the preferences of local consumers. McDonald’s said in 2002 it would seek to cut trans fat content in its fries and other products in half. No timetable for achieving that goal was set.
Critics say high trans fat content is more about restaurants looking to save money than it is about meeting local taste preferences. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils can be reused and have a longer shelf life than other healthier oils used to fry foods.
Moderator’s Comment: Does McDonald’s apparent lack of progress in reducing trans fats have the potential to negatively
affect its sales in the U.S.? Do you see the issue of trans fats coming back to bite restaurants and food manufacturers that use partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in their
products? – George Anderson – Moderator