McDonalds agreed yesterday to pay $8.5 million to settle two lawsuits accusing it of misleading consumers about the levels of trans fat in its food.
McDonald’s will pay $7 million to the American Heart Association to finance a campaign educating consumers about trans fats, which are considered major contributors to heart disease.
In October 2003, BanTransFat.com, based in Calif., sued McDonald’s, prompted by a September 2002 statement by the company that said it was sharply cutting trans fat in its French fries.
Since that statement, the company has run into serious roadblocks in its attempts to find alternative cooking oils. McDonald’s still fries its food in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which contains trans fat.
McDonald’s has said that, while no progress has been made on fries, trans fat levels in its fried chicken products have gone down 15 percent because of changes made by its suppliers. But its 13,000 stores in the United States still use oil containing trans fat to cook chicken, fries and fish.
McDonald’s will also spend $1.5 million publicizing the status of its efforts to remove trans fats.