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28/02/03 . n/a . Reuters . USA  
McDonald's Postpones Move to Healthier Oil  
OAK BROOK, Ill. (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp. (MCD.N), the world's biggest fast-food chain, said on Friday it was putting the brakes on a plan to switch to a healthier type of cooking oil for its fried food, and it did not say when it expected to complete the changeover.  

McDonald's announced plans in September to switch to a new oil that has fewer fats linked to heart disease, and it had expected to finish the switch by the end of February.

Nutrition experts have criticized the restaurant chain for contributing to obesity and other health problems by dishing out fat-laden french fries. In January, a U.S. court threw out a lawsuit against McDonald's that claimed its food was making children obese.

McDonald's financial results have sagged as growing numbers of consumers become more selective about what they eat. The company reported its first-ever quarterly loss in January as its business was battered by changing consumer tastes, a fierce price war and the cost of closing hundreds of restaurants.

The new cooking oil reduces trans-fatty acids by 48 percent and saturated fat by 16 percent.

Health experts say reducing trans-fatty acids and saturated fat, while increasing polyunsaturated fat, can be healthier for the heart.

But fries cooked in the new oil will still have the same total amount of fat. A large order of fries will still contain about a third of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat and trans-fatty acids, and the number of calories will remain at 540.

McDonald's said in a brief statement that while changing to the new oil quickly was an "admirable goal," the company was most focused on customer satisfaction and the quality of its products.

Preserving the taste of McDonald's fries is key to retaining customer loyalty, industry analysts have said.

A company spokesman could not be reached for comment, and the company's statement provided no more detail.

McDonald's is facing growing competition from fast-food chains such as sandwich maker Subway, which tempts consumers with lower-fat, lower-calorie choices.

The decision to switch to a new frying oil was announced during the tenure of former McDonald's Chief Executive Jack Greenberg, who left the company under pressure in December after two years of declining earnings. Jim Cantalupo made his debut as the new McDonald's chairman and chief executive in mid-January.  
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