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Trans fats

MagazineApril 2009 (Vol. 20 Issue 1)Trans fats

Fast-food chain McDonald's is trying to turn its decision to dramatically reduce the levels of trans fatty acids it uses in its cooking into a mar-keting triumph

Fast-food chain McDonald's is trying to turn its decision to dramatically reduce the levels of trans fatty acids it uses in its cooking into a mar-keting triumph.

The company has recently announced that it is introducing a new oil 'blend' that will reduce the level of trans fats in its cooking oils to just 2 per cent. It will be used in every single one of its restaurants throughout Europe by the middle of next year.

However, it made a similar claim in 2002, and told us that the change to cooking oil with less trans fats would be completed the following year. But it didn't change the oil-and it didn't announce the fact.

As a result, McDonald's was forced by an American court to pay $7m to the American Heart Association to help fund a public-awareness campaign to publicize the dangers of trans fats, and a further $1.5m towards publishing notices to inform the public of its failure to introduce safer oil as promised.

Currently, McDonald's prepares its food in partially hydrogenated rapeseed oil, of which around 10 per cent is trans fatty acids, known to lead to heart disease. At trans fats levels of 15 per cent, it's been estimated to increase the risk of heart disease and heart failure by 25 per cent.

The new blend is made up of canola, soybean and corn oils, but it's thought that McDonald's may be introducing a new process, known as 'interesterification'. Although it's a non-hydrogenation method, it none-theless has nutritionists worried. In a small study (published online), the participants' levels of 'good' chol-esterol fell after consuming inter-esterified fats (Nutr Metabol, 2007; 4: 3; doi:10.1186/1743-7075-4-3).


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