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Watchdog seeks disclosure of trans fats in restaurants

A nutrition watchdog is asking the government to require restaurants to disclose the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in the meals they serve. The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a citizen's petition with the Food and Drug Administration last week asking that the agency act on the matter. It said the FDA could save "hundreds of lives" per year.

FDA rules on trans fats currently apply to food manufacturers, but not restaurants. Food companies will be required, beginning in 2006, to disclose the amount of trans fats in their products.

Legal Sea Foods and Ruby Tuesday recently phased out partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which have been linked to coronary disease.

CSPI said that most other chains, including Applebee's, Chili's, McDonald's, and Burger King, use trans fats because they're less expensive.

"Restaurants that continue to use this heart-attack-inducing ingredient should tell their customers about it just to avoid lawsuits, if for no other reason," said Michael Jacobsen, CSPI's executive director. "Partially hydrogenated oils may be a bit cheaper for restaurants, but a big verdict or two could encourage the big chains to check their math.

"Until the FDA bans PHO, it should at least make sure Americans know what they're eating," he added.

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