CANTON Mass. After reformulating 50 menu items and testing 28 cooking oils, Dunkin’ Donuts said it would complete a nationwide switch to a trans-fat-free oil blend for all its foods by Oct. 15.
A sister brand, the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain, will make the changeover to zero-trans-fat oils by Jan. 1, according to Dunkin' Brands Inc., the franchisor of both quick-service concepts.
Dunkin' Donuts said it spent four years looking for the right trans-fat-free oil. Its selection, a blend of palm, soybean and cottonseed oils, was tested at about 400 units over a four-month period, and is already in use in New York City and Philadelphia.
The 50 menu items were reformulated to bring their artificial trans-fat content below .5 gram.
U.S. regulations allow a product to be described as having zero grams of trans fat if the level of the artery clogger falls below half a gram per serving.
The consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded Dunkin’ Donuts’ planned oil switch, calling the initiative “a step in the right direction” to providing more healthful items to customers. “Doughnuts are one of the harder foods to produce [with trans-fat-free oils] so it’s terrific that Dunkin’ Donuts has figured out a way to do it," said executive director Michael Jacobson.
But CSPI is still anxious to know the breakdown of the oils used in the chain’s new blend, Jacobson said. "We asked this morning, but they haven’t gotten back to us,” he explained.
New York's board of health mandated that restaurants switch to frying oils with zero grams of trans fats by July 1. But restaurants were given until 2008 to rid their non-fried foods of the fat, which can have a profound impact on the texture and flavor of baked goods.
Artificial trans fat, which is created in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, has been a critical tool for restaurants and other commercial food producers because of its cost-effectiveness, portability and long shelf life. However, trans fat has been found to increase the level of dangerous cholesterol and lower the level of the so-called “good” cholesterol. Health experts have said trans fat is linked to a greater risk of heart disease and may be a contributor to the onset of type 2 diabetes.
In addition to 7,293-unit Dunkin' Donuts and 5,838-store Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin' Brands franchises the 280-store Togo's deli chain, which the company is looking to sell.