KFC May Reduce Trans Fats

It's a weighty issue and one that's gaining momentum: the use of cooking oil containing trans fats at the nation's restaurants.

On Friday, the trade press reported that KFC, the Louisville, Ky.-based chicken chain, had begun shipping to franchisees cooking oil that contains 50 percent less trans fats than the oil currently in use. The new oil reportedly will help head off a lawsuit filed by a doctor who claims that KFC's food is not adequately labeled. KFC did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Earlier this year, Columbus, Ohio-based Wendy's switched to a zero trans fats cooking oil; Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's is apparently searching for a trans-fats-free oil that will not change the taste of its foods.

The KFC report comes on the heels of news from Chicago: Late last week Alderman Ed Burke proposed that foods containing trans fats carry warning labels, as do cigarette packages and liquor bottles. The labeling proposal is an addition to legislation proposed by Burke last year, that would drastically cut the amount of trans fats in foods served at restaurants. Burke's proposal applies only to restaurant companies with gross sales of more than $20 million a year.

And speaking of city bans: Today, a group of minority and independent restaurant owners will meet at New York City's Department of Health to urge a collaborative effort in banning trans fats rather than an absolute ban.

"The lack of knowledge among minority owners is almost absolute," said Richard Lipsky, president of the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, which represents 13,000 bodegas, 3,000 greengrocers and 500 independent supermarkets.

The protesters, which include the 3,900-member Latino Restaurant Association, are looking for education and help from the city's health department, Lipsky said. "We're not digging our heels in; we're putting our hands out."

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