LOUISVILLE, Ky. - KFC's fried
chicken buckets soon will be stamped with a health message along with the famous
likeness of its founder, Colonel Harland Sanders.
The banner proclaims that its chicken has zero grams of trans fat per
The Louisville-based chain announced Monday that all 5,500 of its U.S.
restaurants have stopped frying chicken in artery-clogging trans fat. The
company had said in October that it was switching to a new soybean oil believed
to be less likely to cause heart disease.
"This idea is a positive one for consumers, and we do expect it's going to
really appeal to people and bring them into our stores," said James O'Reilly,
KFC's chief marketing officer.
Sister brand Taco Bell also said Monday that its U.S. restaurants have
completely switched to an oil with zero grams of trans fat. All 4,200
single-brand Taco Bells were converted to a canola oil, and all 1,400 multibrand
locations switched to a soybean oil, the fast food chain said.
There are 23 Taco Bell items that contain no trans fat, including the chicken
and beef crunchy taco, grilled steak soft taco, chicken and steak Gordita
Supreme, and the chicken and steak Chalupa Supreme. Taco Bell said it's working
to remove all trans fat from all its ingredients.
The two chains are subsidiaries of Louisville-based Yum Brands Inc., whose
brands also include Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food
The announcements come amid a national push to rid diets of trans fat. New
York City and Philadelphia have required restaurants to phase out trans fat by
next year, and bills to restrict or ban trans fat in restaurants or school
cafeterias have been introduced in a number of states. Doctors say trans fat ¡ª
listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil ¡ª can raise bad
cholesterol and lower healthy cholesterol.
Other companies including Wendy's International Inc., Starbucks Corp.,
McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Holdings Inc. have also said they will phase
out trans fat from their products.
KFC said the change in cooking oils will not change how its fried chicken
"We have safeguarded the recipe and the flavor profile," said Doug Hasselo,
KFC's chief food innovation officer.
Hasselo said the new cooking oil costs more, but the chain will absorb the
extra expense without passing it along to customers.
The zero grams trans fat items at KFC also include its potato wedges. Some of
KFC's non-fried items still contain trans fat, including biscuits, pot pies,
macaroni and cheese, and some desserts. The company said it's working to remove
trans fat from those items.
KFC was unveiling television advertising Monday to promote its switch to
cooking oil without trans fat. KFC stores will put up signs touting the
conversion, and the chicken buckets will carry the health message within a week
The company won praise from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a
consumer group that pushed for KFC to switch to a healthier cooking oil.
"To get rid of this one major problem improves their customers' health
automatically, without the consumers doing anything," said Michael Jacobson, the
group's executive director.
Customers at a KFC restaurant in the chain's hometown said they appreciated
Steve Garber, part of a recent lunch crowd, said he worries more about his
"I'm in my 40s now, so it's important that I try to take better care of
myself," said Garber, 41, of Clarksville, Ind.
Larry Miller, a restaurant analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said the biggest
impact would be a perception that "maybe KFC is a little bit more healthy than
it otherwise would have been. But fried chicken is fried chicken. How healthy is
it going to be in people's minds?"