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Applebee's dumps trans fat from the menu

Restaurant-chain operator Applebee's International Inc. said Thursday that it is no longer using trans fat frying oil at its more than 1,800 domestic restaurants.

Trans fat is made when hydrogen is added to liquid cooking oils to harden them for baking or a longer shelf-life. The process turns them into "partially hydrogenated oils", which may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other ailments.

The company, which started looking for replacement oils three year ago, is now using a blend of two soybean oils it claims do not compromise the taste, texture or quality of its food.

"After extensive testing with our guests, we found that our foods cooked in zero trans fat oil still have the great taste out guests have come to expect from Applebee's," said Dave Goebel, the company's chief executive officer, in a statement. "In some cases, the oil even enhances the flavor of the menu item."

In the next few weeks, the company plans to replace the pan and grill oil it uses to cook fish and shrimp with a trans fat-free version and is working with suppliers to remove trans fat from processed foods, such as some desserts and appetizers, Applebee's said.

The changes are expected to be cost-neutral and don't yet affect Applebee's locations outside the U.S., said company spokeswoman Laura Tigges.

Many other restaurants, as well as coffee retailer Starbucks Corp., are ridding themselves of trans fat oils. Yum Brands' chains KFC and Taco Bell recently switched to a trans-fat free oil. Burger King Corp. is testing cooking oils without trans fat, with plans to roll out a new oil by late next year. McDonald's Corp. and Wendy's International Inc. also have been testing and developing new trans fat-free oils.

Some states have considered limiting or banning outright the use of trans fats. New York City and Philadelphia are requiring restaurants to stop using trans fat oils by next year.