CSPI Says Burger King is Biggest Chain Without Firm Plans to Convert to
Safer Alternatives to Partially Hydrogenated Oils
WASHINGTON, May 16 LAWFUEL – The Litigation & Lawsuit Newswire — By using partially hydrogenated oil, Burger King is knowingly increasing its customers’ risk of heart disease and early death, according to a lawsuit filed today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI is asking a
District of Columbia Superior Court judge to order the restaurant chain to stop using the deadly trans-fat-laden ingredient, or at least to require prominent warning notices on Burger King’s menu boards. According to CSPI, Burger King is the biggest restaurant chain that is not fully committed to getting rid of the artificial trans fat found in partially hydrogenated
In 2006, Wendy’s became the first big fast-food chain to switch away
from trans fat. McDonald’s, which was sued in 2003 for still using
artificial trans fat frying oil despite a 2002 promise to phase it out, has begun using trans- fat-free oil in some cities and plans to complete its conversion by the end of 2008. Starbucks replaced the partially
hydrogenated oil in almost all of its pastries after news of a potential
CSPI lawsuit was reported. Last month, KFC announced that it completed its conversion to trans-fat-free deep-frying, a move accelerated in part by a CSPI-initiated lawsuit, which the group withdrew from after KFC announced its intentions.
While Burger King will comply with new requirements in New York City
and Philadelphia not to use artificial trans fat in those cities, diners in the rest of the country will be subjected to high levels of trans fat.
“Despite the moves of its competitors and the well-known dangers of
artificial trans fat, it is unfortunate that Burger King is still using
partially hydrogenated oil in fried foods and other menu items,” said CSPI
executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Some of its meals contain three,
four, or five times as much trans fat as is safe to consume in an entire
day. I hope that this lawsuit will spur Burger King to quickly eliminate
the trans fat and, in the meantime, to warn its customers that it’s there.”
Numerous fried and non-fried foods at Burger King have alarming levels of trans fat, according to CSPI. A King-size Onion Rings has 6 grams of trans fat. A regular-size order of Chicken Tenders with a large order of
French fries has 8 grams of trans. A Sausage Biscuit with a large order of Hash Browns has an astounding 18 grams of trans fat — more than someone should consume in 9 days.
Unlike other fats, the artificial trans fats found in partially
hydrogenated oil exact a double whammy on arteries by raising the LDL
(“bad”) cholesterol and simultaneously lowering the HDL (“good”)
cholesterol. Increasing trans fat consumption by just 2 percent of calories
is associated with as much as a 23 percent increased risk of developing
coronary heart disease, according to researchers at the Harvard School of
Public Health. Both the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and the
American Heart Association recommend getting no more than 1 percent of
calories from trans fat, which works out to just two grams of trans fat for someone on a 2,000-calorie daily diet. That two grams is about what one could expect from the smaller amounts of naturally occurring trans fat in milk and meat products, leaving virtually no room for anything partially hydrogenated, according to CSPI.
This week, Montgomery County, Md., became the first county in the
country to enact regulations phasing out artificial trans fat in
restaurants, and Albany County, N.Y.’s legislature passed a similar law
that is expected to be approved soon by the county executive. Several
months ago, New York City and Philadelphia became the first cities to pass laws getting artificial trans fat out of restaurants operating there. New York’s regulation begins to take effect for deep-frying in July.
CSPI will be represented in its lawsuit by Stephen Gardner, its
litigation director, with Steven N. Berk of the law firm of Chavez &
Gertler acting as co-counsel. The suit charges that Burger King is in
violation of the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act by selling foods laden with trans fat and by failing to let consumers know — an omission that misleads the public assuming the items are safe.
Burger King has more than 7,300 U.S. locations, and global sales of
more than $11 billion.
“Virtually every major restaurant chain in the country is working
overtime to replace artificial trans fats with healthier oils, but Burger
King can’t be bothered,” said Gardner. “Litigation has proven to be an
effective means at accelerating the pace with which restaurant chains are
getting rid of trans fat, and we hope the court brings Burger King to his
senses in this case.”