updated 2/1/2007 11:56:47 AM ET 2007-02-01T16:56:47

Burger King Holdings Inc. has begun testing cooking oils without trans fats in its fast food restaurants with plans for a national rollout by late next year.

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The world’s second-largest burger chain said Wednesday it has been working for more than two years to identify oils without the artery-clogging substance for eventual use in its 7,500 restaurants in the United States and Canada.

“We have done rigorous consumer testing and have narrowed our testing to a few oils that we’re very pleased with,” said John Schaufelberger, vice president of product marketing and innovation. “Our move to in-restaurant testing is a significant milestone for the Burger King system.”

Trans fats are listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. They can raise bad cholesterol and lower healthy cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, doctors say.

Burger King disclosed its plan two days after McDonald’s Corp. announced that it has selected a new trans-fat free oil for cooking, although it did not say when the oil would be introduced in restaurants.

While the national rollout is expected in late 2008, Burger King said it will meet New York City’s new trans fat-free requirements that take effect this year. New York City has set a July 1 deadline for food providers to begin complying with an ordinance passed making it the first U.S. city to ban all restaurants from using artificial trans fats.

Among other fast-food chains, Wendy’s International Inc. introduced a zero-trans fat oil in August, and Yum Brands Inc.’s KFC and Taco Bell said they also will cut the trans fats from many of their foods. Coffee retailer Starbucks Corp. recently announced it was halfway through a plan to purge trans fats from its U.S. food menu.

Florida is one of at least 11 states that have proposed bills in 2007 to ban or restrict the use of trans fats in restaurants or school cafeterias, said Amy Winterfeld of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Other cities, such as Los Angeles, are also considering a ban on trans fats.

The Food and Drug Administration has required since January 2006 that trans-fat content be listed on all packaged foods.

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