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Study: Time to Change Bad Fast Food Frying Fats

3rd November, 2005


Time to Change Bad Fast Food Frying Fats And Oils, Study Says

New research, published this week in the Journal of the New Zealand Dietetic Association, shows that the majority of fast food outlets are still frying in unsuitable fats and oils and are contributing to the risk of heart disease in New Zealand.

However the study also notes that the timing is now right for outlets to make changes to improve the situation for New Zealanders, with both international pressure for the use of healthier oils and with new oils on their way.

The study by Judith Morley-John, Leanne Young and Patricia Metcalf, funded by the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand was begun in 1998 and continued over several years. It looked at 148 independent and chain outlets and was undertaken because of the high consumption of deep fried fast food in New Zealanders’ diets. Approximately 110,000 tonnes of hot chips are consumed by New Zealanders each year.

It found that 82% of outlets used beef fat (tallow) and 7% used palm oil. Both of these types of products are high in saturated fats which increase the risk of heart disease. The other outlets used unsuitable plant oils. While several years ago operators may have thought partially hydrogenated plant oils such as some canola products (which contain trans fats) and other oils, such as soybean, were healthier alternatives, research has more recently emerged that they are neither nutritionally desirable nor suited to the high temperatures used in deep frying. Over the years, these oils have often been promoted by fast food outlets as “vegetable oil” to imply the oil was a healthier deep frying oil.

The authors say the results indicate that the deep frying fat used in fast food outlets is directly contributing to population cardiovascular risk in New Zealand, because of the acknowledged risk associated with the fatty acids in most of the fats and oils used and the popularity of fast food.

They note that since the survey, there has been some increase in the use of healthier plant based, non-hydrogenated oils, for example at one large chain outlet. But they say the overall industry impression is that the majority are still using undesirable types of fats and oils.

Author Judith Morley-John, a nutritionist at the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand, says the good news is that today there is major international attention focusing on the production of oils with improved fat profiles, and on decreasing trans fats in foods, which will soon lead to significant improvements in the composition of oils available on the market.

“Opportunities exist to educate the industry about the types of oils that do meet today’s nutritional criteria and to advocate for their increased use,” says Morley-John.

“The timing is excellent because of the range of new oils coming onto the Australasian market. Nutritionally preferable oils, such as high-oleic sunflower oil, rice bran oil and new blends, are gradually being introduced. Although some may be more expensive, their longer fry life may help offset some of the higher purchasing costs.

“This means all fast food operators, no matter what size their business is, should investigate these other oils to make positive changes to the food supply and improve the health of New Zealanders.”

The Heart Foundation will now undertake an education campaign with fast food operators, and as part of this will re-launch its oils guidelines to industry early next year. The Foundation’s focus on improving the types of deep frying fats used by operators is a second stage in its current work in the food service industry. Until now it has focused on teaching caterers and fast food operators techniques to decrease the fat content of deep-fried food.

The Journal of the NZDA is a peer-reviewed scientific publication with the purpose of enhancing dietetic practice within New Zealand. The October issue also contains articles on the importance of good nutrition for the elderly in New Zealand, evaluation of a consumer food safety campaign and the value of enteral feeding administration guidelines for clinical dietitians.


About the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand
The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand is the charity that leads the fight against cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke and blood vessel disease) through funding research, advancing cardiac rehabilitation and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Released on behalf of the NHFNZ by Aimee Brock, Communications Manager.
Phone (09) 571 9182 or email

About the New Zealand Dietetic Association (NZDA)

The NZDA, founded in 1943, is the professional Association for registered dietitians and associated professionals. New Zealand registered dietitians are registered by the Dietitians’ Board. Members of NZDA work within a professional code of ethics.
For more information visit:

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