According to a new study, it has been found that the fries and chicken nuggets served at McDonald's and KFC restaurants contains trans fat, which is never the same and varies from country to country.
The study, published by Steen Stender and colleagues in the April 13 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine found that "the content of trans fatty acids varied from less than 1 gram in Denmark and Germany, to 10 grams in New York (McDonald's) and 24 grams in Hungary (KFC)", reports foodconsumer.org.
For the study, Stender and colleagues ordered a large serving of French fries and chicken nuggets at McDonald's or KFC restaurants in 43 US and international locations between November 2004 and September 2005. Then, they analyzed the trans fat content in the foods they collected.
The three locations where highest amounts of trans fats used in McDonald's items are New York, Peru and Atlanta, researchers report. But how much trans fat McDonald's use in other US cities remains unknown.
In comparison, KFC uses highest amounts of trans fat in Hungary, Poland, and Peru, according to the study. New York ranked eighth while how much trans fat is used in other US cities is unknown.
The researchers write that the oils used in McDonald's restaurants in the US and Peru contained 23 percent and 24 percent of trans fats, respectively, compared with 10 percent trans fat in the frying oils used for French fries in many European countries.
In some countries such as Spain and Denmark, McDonald's uses oils with 5 percent and 1 percent trans fat, respectively. In France, MacDonald's and KFC use frying oils with 15 percent and 8 percent trans fats respectively, to fry French fries.
Trans fat or partially hydrogenated oil is used to fry chicken nuggets or French fries largely because the oil is more stable and can be used for a longer time compared with ordinary vegetable oils. Trans fat may also give certain particular flavor.
McDonald's says the different amounts of trans fat are used in different countries and or locations because particular frying oil renders a flavor that the local people like most, news media reported.
McDonald's claims that it works diligently to reduce partially hydrogenated oil or trans fat levels in its fries. McDonald's promised long time ago to reduce trans fats, but it failed to deliver its promise. Because of this, McDonald's actually got sued at least once over its failed promise.
Earlier in February of this year, McDonald's said a new test method showed one super-sized serving of fries contains 8 grams of artery-clogging trans fats and the total fat is 30 grams. This is compared with 6 grams of trans fat and 25 grams of total fat that were previously estimated. McDonald's said the nutrition information was updated on its website soon after the new level of trans fat was found.
Trans fat, often labeled as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, is widely used not only in fries, but also in restaurants and processed foods such as cake, cookies, chips, vegetable shortening, crackers and other snack foods.
Trans fat is well known to raise bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol, which are linked with cardiovascular disease including heart disease and stroke. Trans fat may also affect learning ability and cognitive capability as recent studies suggest.
30,000 people prematurely die each year due to consumption of trans fat, Harvard School of Public Health nutrition and epidemiology scientists said. Epidemiologic evidence suggests the death number could be as high as 100,000 a year.
Experts suggest that the safe level for trans fats is zero. Starting in January 2006, food manufacturers are required to label the content of trans fat on the nutrition label.
But one thing about the trans fat labeling worth one's notice is that zero trans fat on the label does not always mean absolute zero. It is possible that the trans fat is lower enough that the food manufacturers do not have to label it.
McDonald's and KFC continue using trans fat to fry chicken nuggets and French fries indicating that the majority of their customers may not really care about trans fat.