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HEALTH REPORT - September 11, 2002: McDonald’s Changes its Oil - 2002-09-10

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

McDonald’s says its fast-food eating places in the United States will start frying foods in a healthier kind of oil. It says the new kind of oil will reduce the most harmful kinds of fat in the fried foods, including the company’s famous French fried potatoes.

McDonald’s says it will improve the corn and soybean oil that it now uses to fry foods. Officials say the new kind of oil will reduce by half the amount of trans fatty acids in the fried foods. The new oil also will have increased amounts of a more healthy kind of fat.

Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences released a report about the dangers of trans fat. Trans fat has been linked to heart disease. It increases the levels of harmful cholesterol in the blood. Some researchers believe that trans fat in vegetable oil may be extremely dangerous. That is because it lowers the levels of good cholesterol while increasing the levels of bad cholesterol.

Trans fats are most commonly found in hard vegetable shortening and oil. They are present in many baked and fried foods bought in stores and restaurants. The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to require information about trans fat to appear on food products sold in the United States.McDonald’s officials say the new vegetable oil also reduces the amount of saturated fat in the fried foods. Experts believe that such fat also is linked to heart disease.

McDonald’s has been using canola oil that is low in trans fat in its fast food restaurants in Europe for several years. Company officials say they will have the new vegetable oil in all thirteen-thousand American McDonald’s restaurants by February. They also hope to continue reducing the amount of trans fats in their products until no food sold by the company contains trans fats.

Food experts have praised the company’s decision to make its products healthier for the public. American Heart Association officials have called on other food companies to make similar changes. But the officials also say that people must remember that French fried potatoes are still high in fat and calories. Eating too many can cause weight gain that can also be harmful to health.

One expert from the Center for Science in the Public Interest called the move a step forward. But she said it will not make French fries a healthy food.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.