A consumer advocacy group is threatening to sue a seafood chain if it doesn't stop its use of a trans fatty oil, which has contributed to nutrition stats that lead the group to label one of its menu items the "worst restaurant meal in America."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a formal complaint to Long John Silver's this week and put out a press release to the public stating that the fast-food restaurant's "Big Catch" meal -- a fried haddock filet, fried onion rings and fried hush puppies -- has 33 grams of trans fats, which it states adds up to two weeks worth of the amount recommended by American Heart Association.
"Long John Silver's Big Catch meal deserves to be buried 20,000 leagues under the sea," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in a statement. "This company is taking perfectly healthy fish—and entombing it in a thick crust of batter and partially hydrogenated oil. The result? A heart attack on a hook. Instead of the Big Catch, I'd call it America's Deadliest Catch."
The trans fats comes from the chain's use of partially hydrogenated oils to fry food, which CSPI notes many other food chains have discontinued use of due to public response, government regulations and lawsuits. A lawsuit brought on by CSPI in 2006 against KFC even lead to the fried chicken chain ceasing its use of partially hydrogenated oil. As a note, CSPI puts KFC's worst meal as having 15 grams of trans fats when it used this type of oil for frying.
That said, CSPI announced that it had contacted Long John Silver's CEO Mike Kern to say the chain would be sued if the use of partially hydrogenated oil isn't discontinued. What's more, CSPI also stated that the chain misrepresents the amount of fish claimed to be in the filet as well. CSPI stated that it doesn't believe switching to a different frying oil would be a problem for the chain, as those in California, for example, already use canola oil instead due to regulations against trans fats.
A sign hangs above a Yum Brands Long John Silver's restaurant on September 22, 2011 in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Yum Brands Inc., which also owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, has agreed to sell its Long John Silver?s restaurants to LJS Partners LLC and the A&W All-American Food chain to A Great American Brand LLC. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The issue with trans fats is that they not only increase so-called "bad" cholesterol but also lowers the "good" kind, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women," the Mayo Clinic stated in an article about trans fatty acids.
CSPI also contacted the Food and Drug Administration, charging it to "revoke its approval" of the use of "that benighted oil."
"It is extremely important to understand that the partially hydrogenated oil in Long John Silver's meals, other restaurant foods, and packaged foods are contributing to thousands of premature deaths annually," Jacobson wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, according to CSPI's press release. "The FDA is failing its responsibility to the public by leaving that slow-killing ingredient in our food supply."
In a response to CSPI's complaint, Long John Silver's issued a statement that it "[stands] behind our published food data and will review any requests from CSPI that raise questions about our data."
Long John Silver's statement also included that the restaurant does offer a variety of sides, which includes vegetables, and non-fried fish options to "satisfy almost every diner’s dietary choices." What's more, it said that the fish in the Big Catch meal is three times larger, in terms of weight, than its normal whitefish choice for other meals.
Watch this report about CSPI's findings:
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This story has been updated to correct a typo.