NEW YORK A watchdog group's check of McDonald's units in New York City has revealed that the chain and its suppliers have lowered the trans-fat content of French fries sold there to 0.2 gram per large-sized serving, compared with contents of 3.7 grams for Wendy's and 3.3 grams for Burger King.
Aspot-check of the three brands was conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group often at odds with the foodservice industry, after the city enacted a law prohibiting restaurants from using partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in their fryers. The law specified that the outlets' oil had to contain no more than .5 grams of trans fat per serving after July 1.
Asecond phase of the same law would ban trans fats outright from restaurant kitchens as of July 1, 2008.
In revealing the study's results last week, CSPI noted that the "results don't necessarily mean that Burger King and Wendy's are violating New York City's new requirement."
Rather, commented CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson, it showed that "French fries are fried twice, once in the factory and once in the restaurant. If these chains want to claim they are switching to trans-fat-free frying oil, they need to switch it at the supplier as well as at the restaurant. Burger King and Wendy's are really deceiving consumers with the public statements they've made about trans fat, which don't tell the whole story.
"McDonald's, on the other hand, has proven that restaurants can truly eliminate artificial trans fat," he added.
Data released by the CSPI showed that McDonald's new oil also imparted less saturated fat than the new oils of Wendy's and Burger King. Laboratory studies of large fry orders from five units of each chain revealed that McDonald's fries contained 4 grams of saturated fat, compared with Burger King's 5.3 grams and Wendy's 4.7 grams, CSPI said. However, it noted that Wendy's large-size order is bigger than the comparable size sold at Burger King.
Some advocates have raised fears that restaurants will revert to frying mediums rich in saturated fats as a way of avoiding hydrogenated vegetable oils, the source of artificial trans fats. Hydrogenated oils became popular as a replacement for saturated fats, which can also raise cholesterol levels.