US group sues KFC to stop use of unhealthy fat
By Lisa Richwine
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. consumer group sued the
operator of the KFC fried chicken restaurant chain on Tuesday
to try and force it to stop frying foods in an artery- clogging
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a suit
filed against Yum Brands Inc., said some KFC meals were
“startlingly” high in harmful trans fat from the partially
hydrogenated oils used for frying.
CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said it was harder
to avoid trans fat at KFC than at other fast-food restaurants.
“Trans fat is almost everywhere on this menu. By frying in
such a dangerous oil, KFC is making its unsuspecting consumers’
arteries Extra Crispy,” he said, referring to a version of
fried chicken sold by KFC.
The suit, which KFC called frivolous, seeks to force the
chain to stop cooking with trans fat or prominently warn
customers about the health hazard in the restaurants.
KFC “does not properly warn, disclose or even tell
consumers that they are eating food items prepared with the
worst oil available,” CSPI said in a legal complaint filed in
Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
The group asked the court to order KFC to switch to a
healthier frying oil. If that is ruled out, CSPI said the court
should require signs at KFC outlets saying “KFC fried chicken
and certain other foods contain trans fat, which promotes heart
KFC spokeswoman Laurie Schalow said the company provided
trans fat values and other nutrition details on its Web site
and in restaurants and that all KFC products were safe to eat.
“This is a frivolous lawsuit completely without merit and
we intend to vigorously defend our position,” she said.
The company has been reviewing alternative oils, but must
consider a number of issues such as availability,
transportation and maintaining its chicken’s taste, she added.
CSPI said a typical three-piece combo meal with an Extra
Crispy chicken drumstick, two Extra Crispy thighs, potato
wedges and a biscuit contained 15 grams of trans fat.
Health experts suggest minimizing trans fat consumption as
much as possible. Research shows it raises LDL or “bad”
cholesterol, while lowering HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Last week, No. 3 U.S. burger chain Wendy’s International
Inc. said it would significantly cut trans fat from its menu by
switching to a new blend of corn and soy oil for french fries
and breaded chicken items. McDonald’s Corp. vowed in 2002 to
remove trans fat from its french fries in the United States but
has not done so.
CSPI, often nicknamed the “food police,” is known for
campaigning against high-calorie and high-fat fare.
The industry-funded Center for Consumer Freedom said CSPI
had filed the suit simply to generate media coverage.
“Any judge unfortunate enough to be burdened with this
court-clogging sham should have the good sense to throw CSPI
out of court,” said Center for Consumer Freedom research
analyst J. Justin Wilson.
Yum Brands, based in Louisville, Kentucky, also operates
the Pizza Hut and Taco Bell fast-food chains.
Yum shares fell 6 cents to $50.43 in early afternoon
trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in New York)