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November 6, 2006

Wendy’s Fries: Five Times Trans Fattier Than Claimed*

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:21 am

Wendy's friesBack in June, Wendy’s made a big announcement that they were switching to a new non-hydrogenated cooking oil that has “zero grams of trans fat per serving.”  Trans fats are considered heart-unhealthy because they raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.

So, it was indeed good news to hear that Wendy’s french fries would only have 0.5 grams of trans fat, no matter which size you bought — small, medium, or large. [See press release.]

Wendy grams

The big surprise is the amount of trans fat actually found in those fries based on independent laboratory tests.

*MOUSE PRINT: According to the November issue of Consumer Reports, test results from two different laboratories reveal the actual amount of trans fats found in a serving of Wendy’s large french fries averaged 2.5 grams — or five times the claimed amount.

Wendy’s stands by their claims saying they “rigorously tested and analyzed the fat content of its fries working with an independent laboratory.”  [See video link in this story.]

Since as consumers, we have no way of knowing whether nutritional claims made for products are true or not, we have to rely on the information presented by the seller. While no one should confuse french fries with a health food, the new Wendy’s fries are still healthier than their old ones, but apparently just not as low in trans fat as the company claims.

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  1. They should have stuck with beef tallow, it tasted a lot better and had natural animal fat which is much healthier than unnatural transfat.

    Comment by John A Elson — November 6, 2006 @ 8:08 am
  2. Well, imho, 2.5 as well as 0.5 gr of fat are both more than zero, so they are lying regardless.

    Are there no regulation from the USDA or the FDA on how Nutricional Information should e measured? Aren’t the USDA or FDA required to investigate (at least occasionally) whether the nutricional information that is provided by companies has any relation with the truth?

    Comment by Jasper — November 6, 2006 @ 10:21 am
  3. And, on top of the zero-times-X-equals-0.5 problem, there’s the weirdness of three different sized servings of fries having the same amount of… anything… in them. More fries, more fat; duh. The only way the flat 0.5 grams could work is if they’re just rounding the numbers off to two significant digits.

    And the _previous_ TFA numbers don’t make sense, _either_. Are they seriously trying to say that the Large size is only 7/5ths as big as the Small one?

    Perhaps it’s all because they deliberately put the really fatty chips in the smaller servings. Yeah – that must be it!

    Comment by dansdata — November 6, 2006 @ 12:49 pm
  4. Oh, woe, everybody’s forgotten about last week’s “saturated fat is bad” scare. As a fact, “tallow” is a saturated beef fat. It’s high melting and because there’s no unsaturation, quite resistant to air oxidation. It is the original bugaboo fat as it was shown in the 1930s (?) that finnish reindeer herders who lived on tallow in the finnish outback developed a high cardiovascular disease incidence. It’s like eating candles (old-fashioned kind). Remember: Saturated fat is **NOT** good for you. Trans unsaturated fat is **NOT** good for you.

    Comment by howard_coward — November 6, 2006 @ 3:01 pm
  5. Well, two things about this:

    1. There’s a reason companies say “zero grams trans fats” instead of “trans fat free”. You get to round your fat grams to the nearest integer, so if you have less than 0.5 grams, you can claim you have zero grams.

    2. If you buy a bag of chips at the gas station, usually they have 2 or more servings listed. I bet Wendy’s considers one “serving” of fries to be some amount less than their small order, and the large one to be 5 or more “servings”.

    I find these practices to be misleading and harmful, but I don’t know how to prevent companies from doing them. You have to practically understand legalese to interpret product claims nowadays.

    Comment by raindog — November 6, 2006 @ 4:42 pm
  6. Re Jasper’s comment of 11/ 6. I would expect the FDA to regulate what what what producers claim about the nutritional content of their products but they do not. I tried for a year for the FA to police the erroneous claims made re nutritional fiber on numerous products with out a bit of success. In fact I couldn’t even get them to indicate what they are su pposed to do. I can walk into any grocery and pick up a half dozen incorrectly labeled products.

    Comment by Charles M. Sylvester — November 6, 2006 @ 4:51 pm
  7. Well, the typing is pretty bad but the thought is correct. FDA does not regulate labeling and won’t even say what they are supposed to be doing.

    Comment by Charles M. Sylvester — November 6, 2006 @ 4:59 pm
  8. Not to mention if you cook your fries in tallow, you completely lose the vegetarian\vegan market, which is growing steadily. (especially in the age ranges that are most likely to eat at fast food joints) Are so many more people going to come for your tastier fries to make up for that? Probably not.

    Comment by Jason — November 6, 2006 @ 5:19 pm
  9. Well, the french fries don’t taste as good as they used to. As for the vega/tarian market, that’s never
    really been an issue anyway. If you think fast food places are targeting them, take another look at their

    Besides, if you eat any kind of mass produced, mass processed vegetable based food, especially bread, then
    you just ***THINK*** you’re a vegetarian!

    Comment by John A Elson — November 7, 2006 @ 2:27 pm
  10. How about the fact that its fast food? If you want healthy you can make it yourself or just go to a reasturant and pay for real healthy food. Any one who expects to go to a fast food place and eat a totally healthy meal is out of their mind. I don’t care what they say, if I go to a fast food place, I know I am not eating anything good for me.

    Comment by David — November 7, 2006 @ 7:57 pm
  11. I think David has a point, taste is everything in fast food, that’s why you go to these places. I’m tired of
    the food nazis ruining everything.

    Truth in labeling is good but out right bans are something else. Tell people what is in it and then let
    them decide whether they want it or not!

    Comment by John A Elson — November 8, 2006 @ 8:48 am
  12. I really don’t think too many people confuse fast food with health food. Wendy’s is saying that their fries are less unhealthy now. They may very well be but are they exaggerating their claims?

    It’s fine to say “put it on the label and let the consumers decide”. It’s a lot tougher in practice when so many companies play word games and use semantics to make their products seem better than they are.

    Comment by hatrack — November 8, 2006 @ 3:25 pm
  13. Besides, if you eat any kind of mass produced, mass processed vegetable based food, especially bread, then
    you just ***THINK*** you’re a vegetarian!

    Since when do they add meat to bread???

    raindog was exactly on point with serving sizes. It’s an old trick they use, they make one serving as
    small as needed to have the trans fat 0.5g or lower, then they round it off to zero and you get “0g trans fat”
    products. One serving might as well be one piece of fries.

    Comment by moltar — November 10, 2006 @ 2:59 pm
  14. “Since when do they add meat to bread???”
    Good question, us vegatarians would like to know this.
    Now, the odd bug or something I can accept, but doubt there are mice or cows in bread…

    but yeah, They did this on Dutch low-fat yoghurt. Serving were reduced by 40% and thus fat “per bowl” was 40% less. Good thing they list it per 100 grams / ml on the back of the pack.

    Comment by Alcari — November 11, 2006 @ 4:15 pm
  15. “Since when do they add meat to bread???”

    Nobody said they did. However, many breads are cooked with animal products, which some vegans consider taboo. For example, if bread is made with eggs and cooked in animal fat is that okay? Depends on how far you want to go with being a vegetarian.

    Re: Elson: “I think David has a point, taste is everything in fast food, that’s why you go to these places.”

    I’m not sure that’s correct. People got to “FAST” food because the food is fast, not tasty. What you typically get is fast mediocrity. However, because of the competition, many will try to improve the taste of their products to lure you into their site. Often that taste is acquired through animal fat and salt: clog your arteries and raise your blood pressure, but it sure tastes good! To lower the fat content, many store products add sugars…I don’t know if they do that in a typical fast food mean, but don’t be surprised when it happens.

    Comment by RS — November 12, 2006 @ 5:28 pm
  16. While food producers need to be held accountable for disclosing the contents of their products to consumers, consumers themselves should be willing to take on greater responsibility for their own health. The fast food companies respond to consumers’ demand for cheap, fast, tasty food. If enough consumers “vote with their dollars” and head to the local pita place instead, Wendy’s et. al. will have to produce healthier food or lose business.

    Comment by Seven of Two — November 14, 2006 @ 1:58 pm
  17. FAST food definately put a lot of importance in taste. Double-blind test testing of hundreds of variations in flavoring, scent enhancers, etc. goes on constantly in the corporat “food labs” of these places.

    Do you have any idea how many different chemicals are in your average value meal? I’m not talking about the stuff that was already in the potatoe, cow or wheat field before they were converted into food. I mean factory-made stuff that often doesn’t even exist in nature. (Supposedly a single drop of one brand of concentrated “green pepper” flavoring could flavor a swimming-pool size vat of pizza sauce.)

    Anyhow, making you want to come back again and again has a lot more to do with corporate fast-food decisions than whether or not the stuff will kill you over time.

    Comment by Cory — November 16, 2006 @ 9:50 am
  18. My mistake…
    “The chemical that provides the dominant flavor of bell pepper can be tasted in amounts as low as 0.02 parts per billion; one drop is sufficient to add flavor to five average-size swimming pools.” –

    Also interesting from the same article…
    “The flavor in a twelve-ounce can of Coke costs about half a cent.”

    “A typical artificial strawberry flavor, like the kind found in a Burger King strawberry milk shake, contains the following ingredients: amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.”

    Comment by Cory — November 16, 2006 @ 9:56 am
  19. mmmm…. sounds good! Especially the methyl heptine carbonate!

    Comment by John A Elson — November 22, 2006 @ 11:59 am
  20. Why are you Americans so obsessed with fats? Natural animal fats won’t kill you, neither will trans fats if you don’t eat tons of fries a day.

    To the person talking about artificial flavors, don’t worry about that — aspartame is used in almost all diet products and 1g of it is like 180g of regular sugar and nobody seems concerned. And still people insist on having “sugar-free” food on the shelves even if that “sugar-free” means “aspartame inside”. Actually all that diet/lite crap is just good for their pockets because aspartame is cheaper and it takes less space in their warehouses than sugar.

    Comment by Igor — May 5, 2007 @ 3:16 am

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