Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Finally, KFC opts for the good oil

Finally, KFC opts for the good oil

Backdown ... KFC ditches palm oil for a healthier alternative.

Kelly Burke

June 16, 2009 - The Sydney Morning Herald

The nation's most recalcitrant fast food chain has capitulated.

Yum! Restaurants, makers of KFC, will ditch its artery- clogging palm oil for a healthier alternative, two years after the company stared down the Federal Government and refused to change its ways.

The backdown coincides with the announcement today that a range of grilled chicken options will be added to the Australian menu, following a successful launch in the US early last year.

When the Herald approached Yum! last March and asked if Kentucky Grilled Chicken was on its way to Australia, the company denied it had any plans to depart from its usual fried fare.

KFC was one of the last few major fast foods chains to resist the move away from palm oil for frying.

The oil, although low in trans fat (1 per cent or less) is 52 per cent saturated fat, making it a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, according to the World Health Organisation.

Production of the oil has been responsible for the illegal clearing of thousands of hectares of rainforest in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia to make way for palm plantations.

In 2006, McDonald's adopted a canola- sunflower blend, also low in trans fats but with only 12 per cent saturated fat content.

The following March, the then assistant health minister, Christopher Pyne, called a meeting of fast food industry leaders, giving them a six- month deadline to draw up plans to phase out ingredients exceptionally high in saturated fats such as palm oil.

Sources at the meeting said Yum! Restaurants representatives were noticeable in their reticence to support the otherwise unanimous plan, and the company subsequently told the Herald that KFC Australia had been using palm oil "for many years'' and had no intention of converting to a healthier cooking oil.

Along with the switch to a canola- sunflower blend for cooking, KFC has now also made a commitment to reduce the salt content in its food across the board.

The company will reportedly spent $35 million introducing the menu changes, including a $10 million campaign to market the new grilled chicken products.

Kelly Burke is the Herald's Consumer Affairs Reporter

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