It's recently announced that it is introducing a new oil 'blend' that will reduce the level of trans fatty acids in its cooking oils to just 2 per cent. It will be used in every one of its restaurants throughout Europe by the middle of next year.
This is not the first time that McDonald's has made a triumphal announcement that it was cutting trans fatty acids from its fast-food chain. It made a similar claim in 2002, and said the change to an oil with less trans fats would be completed the following year.
Unfortunately, no doubt due to an oversight, it forgot to mention to anyone that it didn't change the oil at all. As a result, it was forced by an American court to pay $7m to the American Heart Association to help fund a public awareness campaign about the dangers of trans fats, and a further $1.5m on publishing notices that informed the public of its failure to introduce a safer oil.
It's also a case of change or die. In Denmark, there's a ban on any oil or fat that contains more than 2 per cent trans fat, while New York City authorities are imposing a similar curb on cooking fats by July this year in all the city's restaurants. This will come as a special blow to the city's McDonald's outlets. In a survey in 2004 and 2005, the level of trans fats on McDonald's French fries served up in New York was 28 times greater than in the Danish outlets. It was also far higher than that served up in McDonald's in other cities around the USA.
Currently McDonald's prepares its food in partially hydrogenated rapeseed oil, which contains around 10 per cent of trans fats, known to lead to heart disease. At 15 per cent it's been estimated that you increase your risk of heart disease and failure by 25 per cent.
The new blend is made up of canola, soybean and corn oils, but it's not clear how the oils will be prepared. Perhaps McDonald's is introducing a new process, known as interesterification, a non-hydrogenated method that nonetheless has nutritionists worried. In a small study published in Nutrition & Metabolism journal, people's 'good' cholesterol levels fell after eating an interesterified fat diet.
(Sources: various, including www.bantransfats.com)
E-news broadcast 15 February 2007 No.334 [Subscribe]