Seafood fast food chain Long John Silver’s has decided to ditch trans fats. “We are very pleased to improve the health profile of our entire menu and transition all of our fried products to trans-fat-free soybean oil,” wrote Long John Silver’s CEO Mike Kern in a statement.
The restaurant gained notoriety last summer when its “Big Catch” meal — fried fish, onion rings, and hush puppies — was deemed the “worst restaurant meal in America” by the food advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
“Long John Silver’s Big Catch meal… has an astonishing 33 grams of trans fat — the most powerful promoter of heart disease in the food supply,” wrote CSPI in a statement at the time. “On top of that, the meal has another 19 grams of saturated fat, which also promotes heart disease, and nearly 3,700 milligrams of sodium, which promotes high blood pressure and stroke.” The amount of trans fats in the meal is 16 times the recommended maximum daily intake, leading CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson to label the “Big Catch” as a “heart attack on a hook.”
Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are known for raising harmful cholesterol while simultaneously lowering beneficial cholesterol. It’s a deadly combination that can promote heart disease and related medical problems.
While there has long been consensus that adding trans fats to foods is a public health threat, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken several decades to phase out the harmful substance from the food supply. A watered-down mandate requiring labels on foods containing trans fats was passed in 2006 after considerable opposition from food makers.
But the FDA finally announced regulations last fall that will eventually make it impossible for any U.S. food manufacturer to use trans fats.
“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” wrote FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg when announcing the new rules. The agency estimates that reducing Americans’ trans fat intake could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease every year.