Tag Archives: Kentucky Fried Chicken

Compare and Contrast: Trans fat Bans

Compare and contrast the following two stories:

KFC bans trans fat vs. New York looking to ban trans fat

What’s the difference here? One is a corporation reacting to market forces, the other is a government institution legislating diet and menus in restaurants. Which is the best solution in reducing trans fat intake in our citizenry?

It’s a question to which I don’t have an easy answer. My preference is for the former, but I understand that there are times that there is a need for the latter.

But first, some information – while the majority of trans fat nowadays are created by the processed food industry, it’s important to note that there are some trans fats that occur naturally, specifically amongst the milk and fat of ruminants (ie. cows, sheep, goats, etc). That means butter, milk and cheese from these ruminants all have some measure of trans fat, called Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). I don’t believe that anyone wants to go down the path that leads to the banning of milk, butter or cheese in restaurants.

What I believe the intent of the ban is to reduce or restrict items made with partially hydrogenated unsaturated plant fats (oils)…think margarine or Crisco, although there are many other products in this vein, including industrial agri-products that most food consumers likely have never come across, as they are added to things like Oreos, Fritos and Twinkies a long time prior to ending up at the supermarket.

So in reality, what people should be talking about is a ban on partially hydrogenated unsaturated plant fats and NOT a ban on trans fats, because the former is only a subset of the latter. Because of this misuse of language and misunderstanding of fat definitions, it’s already strike one against any governmental ban.

The second strike comes from my own philosophy and biases: Supply the people with enough information and they can make decisions for themselves. Can a restaurant provide me with the information needed to make informed decisions? Absolutely. In fact, KFC did just that with their press release.

It should be noted that KFC has the resources to provide such press releases. My favorite teriyaki place down the street from me most assuredly does not have the funds or pull to get that kind of press. However, it is not impossible for said teriyaki restaurant to communicate what fats and oils are used in the back room.

Is not possible for all restaurants to keep a list (available upon request) that states the
fats used in each dish? Perhaps the restaurant owners out there could give me an idea on how feasible something like that could be.

I’m of the mind that for any industry that allows for a transparency in their business practices, the government should try to refrain from imposing it’s will upon them. The restaurant industry, where production techniques are nominally known and ingredients can be easily communicated; I can’t for the life of me see why we should ban foods. Contrast this against the production techniques and processes of the industrial farms I alluded to yesterday, which are hardly known.

What it boils down to for me is whether I want the ability to make the decision of what foods I eat (based off of the best possible information), or whether I want to have the government make that decision for me.

Technorati Tags: Trans Fats, Food Bans


Fast Food Honesty

Derrick recently pointed me to a new site called Rudd Sound Bites, the weblog of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. On the site, there was a brief post about Burger King, and their penchant for being unapologetic for the fat content in their food.

Subsequently BK has added a Triple Whopper and BK stackers, which layer burgers, cheese, bacon, and sauce. The Quad Stacker has 4 hamburgers, 4 slices of cheese, 8 strips of bacon, and sauce weighing in 1000 calories, 68 grams of fat, 30 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, and 1800 mg of sodium (78% of a day’s total).

One wonders about the corporate wisdom of this strategy. BK might do well initially, but I believe is a sitting duck in the long-term. The company is probably more vulnerable to lawsuits and will lose ground with consumers (particularly the next generation – today’s children) who are becoming more nutrition conscious. These are exactly the traps several of the big investment banks have warned companies against in reports on the obesity problem. Looks like BK might be positioning itself to go down in flames.

Dr. Kelly Brownell is the author of the post, and I’m not sure I completely agree with his assessment of the situation. It’s my belief that by trumpeting the unhealthiness of their food by Burger King (and Hardee’s for that matter, where meat is a condiment) inoculates these companies from lawsuits. It’s not as if these restaurants are promoting these foods as healthy, when in fact they seem to be getting a fair amount of press on how unhealthy these products actually are. It’s going to be difficult to successfully sue Burger King or Hardee’s when they can provide ample evidence of these “negative” publicity articles.

Of course there’s ample room for distrust of the fast food industry. Thanks in large part to McDonald’s misguided idea that they can be all things to all people, and then Kentucky Fried Chicken’s fabricated claim that fried chicken is the “cornerstone of a healthy diet“, it’s easy to be concerned about their claims to health. But this? This is a different approach to selling their products. The press release states clearly:

“We’re satisfying the serious meat lovers by leaving off the produce and letting them decide exactly how much meat and cheese they can handle.”

That’s not subterfuge, that’s an invitation. While they are not coming out and saying that their BK Stacker is unhealthy, they certainly aren’t hiding the fact that this product is all bun, burger and cheese, and lots of it. If I go in and purchase this sandwich, how is Burger King liable?

As to the larger point of Dr. Brownell’s post, whether or not this strategy is good for the company long term (lawsuits aside), we’ll have to wait and see. My bet is that they’ll still be in a battle with Wendy’s for the number two position in the Fast Food hierarchy, and they’ll still show profits.

I, for one, am glad to see fast food restaurants being unapologetic for their products. By being clear on who they are and what they sell, it makes it easier for me to decide whether or not I visit their establishments. That I choose not to is worth noting, but only if you keep in mind that I don’t really fit into their core demographics.

Technorati Tags: Food, Fast+Food, Restaurants


Because You should know

McDonald’s, KFC Fast Food Fattier In U.S. – Study Finds Trans Fat Levels Vary From City To City and Country to Country.

I’m not complaining, mind you, but it does put a wee-tiny hole in the “consistency of product” idea that fast food likes to foster.

Technorati Tags: Food, Fast Food, Trans Fat