Attack of the Zombie Trans Fat!
Bob Evans, White Castle, & Long John Silver’s Still Using Heart-Stopping Artificial Trans Fat, Despite Known Danger
April 26, 2010
WASHINGTON—Just when you thought that artificial trans fat was dead, it staggers zombie-like out of the culinary graveyard: Bob Evans, White Castle, and Long John Silver’s are all still using artificial trans fat in French fries, onion rings, hotcakes, and other foods. But this nutritional zombie isn’t out for your brains; it’s after your heart.
Artificial trans fat is such an uncommonly powerful promoter of heart disease that it has been dropped by the largest fast-food chains; it has been forced out of restaurants in New York City, California, and other jurisdictions; and has been increasingly hard to find in supermarkets since trans fat labeling went into effect in 2006. But while McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Starbucks, and other big chains have phased out their use of partially hydrogenated oil (the source of artificial trans fat), America’s chain-restaurant B-Listers have yet to get the memo, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
“Bob Evans, White Castle, and Long John Silver’s are now the roguish outliers among the restaurant industry,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Many Americans might have thought that the era of artificial trans fat was over. At these chains, it lives tragically on.” The three chains, with total sales of $3 billion a year, range between the 39th- and 51st-biggest in the country.
Trans fat promotes heart disease by raising one’s LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, which clogs arteries, while lowering one’s HDL, the “good” cholesterol that guards against heart attacks. The Institute of Medicine recommends consuming as little trans fat as possible, while still eating a healthy diet, and the American Heart Association advises people to limit trans fat to no more than 2 grams per day. Since small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in milk and beef, that doesn’t leave much room for trans fat from artificial sources, according to CSPI.
At Bob Evans, the fries aren’t the problem; it’s the pancakes: An order of Stacked & Stuffed Caramel Banana Pecan Hotcakes has 7 grams of trans fat; a standard order of three unadorned Bob Evans Buttermilk Hotcakes has 9 grams. At White Castle, even Harold and Kumar might look askance at the French fries, onion chips, and onion rings, which have between 2 and 10 grams of trans fat per order, depending on the product and the size, says CSPI.
CSPI said it was particularly disappointed to find that zombie trans fat still lurks at Long John Silver’s. That chain, owned by Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, knows better, according to the group. KFC phased trans fat out of its fried foods in 2006, four months after CSPI filed a lawsuit against the chain. Taco Bell also phased out artificial trans fat several years ago. Nevertheless, at LJS, battered fish and shrimp has between 2.5 and 4.5 grams of trans fat; a side order of cryptic “Crumblies” has 4 grams; and every single meal on the chain’s Dollar Stretcher menu has artificial trans fat, ranging from the Small Golden Fries (2.5 grams) to the Two Jr. Fish and Fries (7 grams).
“The FDA has all the scientific evidence and legal authority it needs to send partially hydrogenated oil to the chemical boneyard quickly and permanently, but it has failed to do so,” Jacobson said. “Banning it would save thousands of lives annually.”