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Taco Bell switching to trans-fat-free cooking oils

November 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, KY. — Taco Bell will be the latest fast-food chain to cut artery-clogging trans fats from cooking oils in its U.S. restaurants, the company announced Thursday.

The nation's largest seller of quick-service Mexican-style foods uses the oils to fry its nachos, taco salad shells, potatoes, chalupa shells and other items.

"This is something we've been working on for over two years, and we just believe it's the right thing and the right changes to make in our products," said Warren Widicus, Taco Bell's chief food innovation officer.

Widicus said the change meant 15 Taco Bell menu items would contain no trans fats, including the Crunchy Beef Taco, the Taco Supreme, some \o7chalupas \f7and cinnamon twists. He said some items, including the Grilled Stuft Burrito, would still contain some trans fat.

Trans fats, which have been linked to heart disease, are being removed from many fast-food kitchens nationwide as companies try to appeal to health-conscious diners. Wendy's International Inc. and KFC have said they were switching to a zero-trans-fat oil, and McDonald's Corp. is considering the change.

Taco Bell Corp. is owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands Inc. Yum also is the parent of Pizza Hut and KFC, which announced last month that it was switching to a non-trans-fat oil.

Taco Bell said all 5,000 of its single-brand restaurants in the U.S. would change from a partially hydrogenated soybean oil to a trans-fat-free canola oil by April. Restaurants that share a roof with another Yum-owned eatery, such as KFC, will use trans-fat-free soybean oil, the company said.

Widicus said the oil switch was the latest effort by the fast-food chain to create more healthful menu items.

When eaten, trans fats significantly raise the level of so-called bad cholesterol in the blood, clogging arteries and causing heart disease. Researchers at Harvard's School of Public Health estimated that trans fats contributed to 30,000 U.S. deaths a year.

Shares of Yum brands rose 71 cents to $62.84.

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