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09/02/06 . by Rhiannon Edwards . . Scotland  
McDonald's fries 'fattier than thought'  

McSpotlight notes:

1. According to the company's admissions, one portion of McDonald's large fries actually contains four times the US government's recommended maximum limit of trans-fat for a whole day.

2. McDonald's latest response to growing public criticisms about their nutitional claims for their foods, is to concede their obligation to have nutritional labelling on their packets. This was raised by the defendants in the UK McLibel trial as far back as 1994.

McDONALD'S, the world's largest restaurant chain, admitted last night its french fries contain a third more "trans" fats, which are linked to heart disease, than it had thought.

It said a new testing method it began using in December showed the level of potentially artery-clogging trans fat in a portion of large fries is eight grams, up from six, with total fat increasing to 30 grams from 25.

Trans fats, often used by restaurants and in packaged foods, are thought to cause cholesterol problems and increase the risk of heart disease.

The disclosure comes as McDonald's starts using packaging in the US with facts on nutritional content - a move made voluntarily but with the fast- food industry under pressure from consumer groups and ministers to give information.

McDonald's said it updated the nutrition information on its website as soon as it discovered the new level of trans fat. It explained the rise by saying an improvement in the testing process has made results more accurate.

"As part of our ongoing voluntary efforts to provide our customers with the best science-based information, we continually enhance our testing," said Cathy Kapica, global nutrition director for McDonald's.

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, said the increase was "quite dramatic".

"Nutritionally it's a disastrous product," he said of the fries.,1,1593493.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hedctrack=1&cset=true

New fat stats for fries? Not lovin' it.
Self-testing reveals McDonald's nutritional data was wrong

By John Schmeltzer
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 9, 2006

It was not an announcement McDonald's Corp. wanted to make, or fast-food fans wanted to hear: French fries from the Golden Arches are less healthy than originally thought

Correcting a labeling error, the hamburger giant acknowledged Wednesday that the trans fat content in an order of its large fries is one-third higher than previously stated, containing 8 grams of the heart-endangering fat instead of the 6 grams listed on brochures and McDonald's Web site.

In addition, the Oak Brook-based company said, the total fat content of its large fries is 20 percent higher, 30 grams rather than the 25 grams listed, while total calories rose to 570 from 520.

The company said it would update its publications to reflect the new measurements.

It was a black eye for McDonald's, which in October trumpeted its initiative to print nutritional data on its packages to help consumers make informed choices about what to eat. The packaging is being rolled out in Turin, Italy, the site of the Winter Olympics. Trans fat is believed to be so dangerous to the heart that the government, which told packaged-food companies they had to begin listing trans fat on nutritional labels this year, recommends consumers limit consumption to less than 2 grams per day.

Trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil, a process called hydrogenation. It extends the shelf life and flavor stability of foods. It is in vegetable shortening, crackers, cookies, snack foods and other foods fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

"This certainly raises questions about their testing or about the vaunted uniformity of their products worldwide," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food and nutrition lobbying group.

"It is uncertain whether the testing lab goofed, or they had so few samples that some guy in Peoria left the fries in the fryer too long. But 2 grams of trans fat is quite a big difference," he said.

The discrepancy was discovered when the company received results from tests it conducted in December that were taken to validate information the company already had collected, the Financial Times first reported Wednesday.

While nutritional data for the Big Mac and double cheeseburger were accurate, the french fry data differed markedly.

"We continually enhance our testing," said Cathy Kapica, McDonald's global director of nutrition. "That's why the new tests that McDonald's implemented produced the results that we believe are the most accurate today."

Barbara Ingham, a food science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said consumers should not worry about the information they receive on most food labels. "By and large, the information on the label is accurate," she said, noting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration imposes stringent requirements to ensure the data is precise.

Ingham suggested that McDonald's may have encountered a problem with the supplier of its oil or with its equipment. The company said it would continue to test its products.

McDonald's has long acknowledged the problems trans fat can cause and has been trying to develop a better french fry oil for some time. In 2002, the company announced plans to switch to healthier cooking oils.

While it has been successful in developing an oil that can be used to fry chicken and hash browns, it has struggled to find oil that cooks fries to the taste and texture to which customers are accustomed. It is a taste for which the company is recognized worldwide.

Some consumers have become impatient. A year ago, McDonald's agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the fast-food giant of failing to inform consumers of delays in a plan to reduce fat in the cooking oil used for french fries and other foods.

Kapica said the company uses canola oil to cook its fries in Denmark, Israel and Australia.

"It is a challenge for the entire food industry," she said. "We could go back to our original formula and get no trans fat if we used beef tallow. But it is high in saturated fats."

In 1990, the company dramatically altered its fry formula by abandoning the use of beef tallow in cooking fries in favor of 100 percent vegetable shortening. Its biggest rivals, Burger King and Wendy's, also started using vegetable oil in the 1990s.

The company is testing a new oil formula, but officials say they are uncertain if it will be successful.

McDonald's, which about 20 years ago agreed to begin providing nutritional data to settle a lawsuit filed by a number of state attorneys general, isn't certain what happened.

The company explained that it was using a new protocol for testing in the run-up to the Winter Olympics and the introduction of the wrappings and packaging containing the information. There is no indication that any other products are mislabeled, the company said.

The decision to immediately release the information was part of the company's "ongoing commitment to greater transparency," a spokeswoman said.

The disclosure came the same day the company said its U.S. sales in January rose nearly 10 percent. McDonald's shares closed at $36.36, up 17 cents on the New York Stock Exchange.

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