McDonald's Corp. said Friday that it had agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit over artery-clogging trans fats in its cooking oils.
McDonald's said it would donate $7 million to the American Heart Assn. and spend an additional $1.5 million to inform the public of its trans fat plans.
The settlement is the result of litigation from a San Francisco area activist who has been seeking to raise public awareness of the health dangers from the trans fatty acids in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
Trans fats are used in thousands of processed foods, often giving the crunch to French fries, cookies and cereals.
They are created in processing vegetable oils and have been found to be as unhealthy as pure cholesterol. The latest official U.S. nutrition recommendations suggest limiting their intake.
In a statement, Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's said it had reduced trans fatty acid levels in its Chicken McNuggets, Crispy Chicken Sandwich and McChicken Sandwich items, and "continues to work hard on our initiative to reduce TFAs in our cooking oil."
McDonald's was sued by Stephen Joseph, founder of BanTransFats.com, who said the company did not properly inform the public that it had encountered delays in plans to lessen the trans fats in its cooking oils.
Joseph said his site would receive $7,500, as would another plaintiff in the case.
"While there is a difference of opinion regarding whether McDonald's gave effective notice to its customers that the oil was not changed, McDonald's deserves recognition and credit for having achieved a reduction in the trans fat levels in its chicken products and for working diligently over the last two years to test additional cooking oils," Joseph said in a statement.
McDonald's shares Friday rose 15 cents to $32.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.