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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Changes in Trans Fat and Fatty Acids in Fast Food Menu Items

Authors
item Pehrsson, Pamela
item Nickle, Melissa

Submitted to: American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: Global Perspective: A Launch Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 26, 2008
Publication Date: November 7, 2008
Citation: Pehrsson, P.R., Nickle, M.S. 2008. Changes in trans fat and fatty acids in fast food menu items. American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: Global Perspective: A Launch Conference, November 6-7, 2008, Washington, D.C.

Technical Abstract: Recent interest in trans fatty acid intake and subsequent recommendations included in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to decrease intake has led to extensive product reformulations of widely consumed foods high in trans fat. As part of these efforts to provide current and accurate nutrient composition data for selected restaurant foods, the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) assessed the fatty acid profiles of fast-food boneless fried chicken pieces, French fries, and hash browns between 2001-2005 and again in 2008. During 2001-2005, samples of these three foods were collected from top-selling fast-food chains using the NDL multi-stage nationwide sampling protocol. Samples were analyzed for total fat (acid hydrolysis method) and fatty acids (gas chromatography), with rigorous quality control checks. In 2008, NDL obtained updated manufacturers' data (analytical and website estimates) and compared them data to the trans fat, total fat, and fatty acid profiles previously generated. Preliminary results show a noticeable reduction of total, trans, and saturated fat in fast-food menu items in three of four restaurant chains sampled. One company’s trans fat values ranged from 3.73g/100g to 4.52g/100g (hash browns/French fries) before reformulation. In 2008, the trans fat values had decreased to 0.11g/100g to 0.13g/100g for that company. Mean values were obtained from various sources; therefore statistical testing was not feasible. Two companies sampled have claimed zero grams of trans fat per serving on their websites and one company had lower amounts of trans fat, decreasing from 5.12g/100g to 3.83g/100g (French fries) and 3.25g/100g to 2.65g/100g (chicken tenders). These observations will be investigated further in new USDA-sponsored analyses of fast-food fried items. The total fat and fatty acid values for these fast food items have been updated in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, SR21. Current data for frequently consumed fast-food fried foods will allow more accurate monitoring of the total fat and fatty acid intake of the U.S. population.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014