Public pressure forces
food industry to ‘care’
This fat food nation is transforming, but into what?
The sky has fallen! The sky has fallen!
It must be the end of the world if the planet’s fattest fried chicken is going on a diet.
This doesn’t sound like something KFC would do.
Fifteen years ago, to make itself healthier, it simply changed its name to KFC from Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Now it’s going legit by cleaning the artery-clogging fats out of its deep fat fryer?
Of course, it was probably the huge class action lawsuit by the citizens of the District of Columbia that scared the blubber off the company.
KFC Canada plans to have made the total transition in all of its 786 restaurants to canola oil from partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which contains trans fatty acids, by early 2007.
In the United States, KFC will have completed the transition to a newly invented soybean oil in all of its 5,500 restaurants by April, 2007.
With this move by the fattiest of food outlets, you might say the gig is up for trans fats in the prepared food industry.
Wendy’s has already made the switch. And Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, KFC’s sister companies, plan to follow suit.
Growing scientific evidence over the last decade about the harmful health effects of trans fats has kept pace with consumer outcry, not to mention a growing threat of lawsuits.
These three factors combined are having the healthful effect of scaring some caring into the prepared-food industry, including big supermarket names like Kraft, Nestle, Cadbury, Schweppes and Kellogg’s.
The anti-trans fat buzz of the last few years should be taken with a grain of salt.
After all, we are still recovering from the witch-hunt against carbohydrates. And remember when “oat bran” was the key to good health?
However, concerns about trans fats go much deeper than the diet industry.
This is the outing of a substance that kills, deforms and cripples people, especially Americans.
Trans fat is an industrially created fat that may be better understood by its nickname, “plastic fat.”
It contains absolutely nothing healthy to humans.
It has had one main goal since it was invented 100 years ago — to increase the profit margins of food manufacturers.
The scientific tampering (adding hydrogen) to vegetable or plant oils to turn them into a semi-solid shortening is done to help food products keep their shapes and prolong their shelf lives.
It gives crackers their crispiness and makes French fries stay ‘fresh’ forever.
Trans fats do occur naturally in small quantities in meat and dairy products but are considered less harmful than the industrial variety.
Metabolic studies have shown that the adverse effects trans fats have on cholesterol makes them twice as harmful as saturated fats, which are mostly found in meat and have taken the rap as the demon fat for decades.
But thanks to years of experimentation on the global populous, we now know that trans fats have been getting away with murder.
The proliferation of trans fats as a main ingredient packaged food products and restaurant fare has contributed significantly to the 20th century epidemic of coronary heart disease.
In Canada every year, trans fats kill up to 3,000 people.
You can increase your risk of heart disease by as much as 25 per cent simply by consuming five grams of trans fat a day, or half a piece of KFC chicken and half an order of fries.
According to KFC, a single piece of chicken and an order of fries, contains 10.2 grams of trans fats today. Next spring, the same meal will contain less than one gram.
The results of a recent study commissioned by CTV and The Globe and Mail, show that KFC had the highest trans fat levels among four major fast food chains in Toronto and Vancouver.
KFC’s deep-fried chicken pieces (Popcorn Chicken) and fries meals had an astronomical 18.6 grams of trans fats.
Burger King’s Chicken Tenders and fries meal had 13 grams of trans fats.
Wendy’s Crispy Chicken Nuggets and fries had 5.5 grams of trans fats.
The lowest levels of trans fats were discovered in McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and fries meal at 1.8 grams.
Trans fats have been linked to other health problems, including childhood allergies, asthma, Type-2 diabetes and obesity.
New York city wants to lock up this tyrant and throw away the key. It is proposing health code changes that would force all of its 24,600 eateries to use something else.
Chicago is considering following suit if the bill goes through in New York. Tiburon, California, convinced all of its restaurants to voluntarily start cooking with trans fat-free oils.
Denmark is the first country to ban trans fats.
Canada just might do the same, if the Centre for Science in the Public Interest can convince Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
More likely is that the industry will continue converting itself.
But before we sign off on this victory, perhaps we should stay focused on the task at hand — not letting the food industry get away with murder, literally or otherwise.
What exactly will Americans be ingesting when KFC south of the border start’s frying their birds in Monsanto’s new Visitive soybean oil?
The biotech giant claims the new soybean was invented the natural way — “through conventional breeding.”
But this isn’t entirely true, since Vistive soybeans also have the trademarked GM Roundup Ready trait so that they can be sprayed with the company’s herbicide glyphosphate.
Besides any concerns about pesticides, scientists are already worried that North Americans are consuming too much soya oil and that it’s creating high rates of cardiovascular disease — and changing the architecture and functioning of the brain!
They say that a dramatic rise in omega-6 fatty acids from soya is flooding out the omega-3 fatty acids we need to build the brain, as well as for vascular health, because they compete for the same metabolic pathways.
But Monsanto already knows this, which is why it is working on another new soya bean — Vistive omega-3, due to become available around 2011-2013.
But will six years be long enough for the experiment at KFC and other fast food joints with Visitive low-linolenic soybeans to yield results?
After all, our experiment with trans fats lasted nearly 100 years, and counting.
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.