Corn Oil Used Most Often for French Fries
Most Fast Food Restaurants Using Corn Oil Rather Than Healthier Oils
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 19, 2010 -- A new study shows corn oil is the most popular frying oil
used for cooking french fries at major fast food outlets. Researchers found
that 69% of national fast food restaurant chains serve french fries containing
corn oil, compared to only 20% of small-business restaurants.
Researchers say french fries are often described by national fast food
chains as being "prepared" or "cooked" in vegetable oil and may contain one or
more of several oils, such as corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, and
palm. But there are several nutritional reasons why it might be important for
the consumer to know what type of oil is used in frying.
"Corn oil, although initially hailed as a highly polyunsaturated fat that
could lower cholesterol, contains considerably more heart-harmful saturated fat
than canola, sunflower, or safflower oils, and less heart-protective
alpha-linolenic acid than soybean oil, making it the least healthy choice of
the five," write researcher A. Hope Jahren of the University of Hawaii in
Honolulu and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
They say nearly a quarter of the total calories in a typical fast food meal
of a hamburger, fries, and soda and most of the meal's fat comes from the oil
in which the french fries are cooked.
Figuring Out French Fry Fats
In the study, researchers analyzed the oil used in french fries purchased
from 68 of the 101 national fast food chain outlets in Oahu, Hawaii, and
compared it to the frying oil used in a similar number of small businesses.
The results showed 80% of the French fries purchased from small businesses
had no evidence of corn oil in the frying oil composition, compared to only 31%
of the national fast food chains.
Although the percentage of restaurants using more than 50% corn oil in their
frying oil mixture was similar among the major chains and small restaurants (7%
and 11% respectively), the study shows corn oil accounts for at least some of
the mix in all the fast food chains, with the exception of Jack in the Box.
Researchers say corn oil is more expensive to purchase from small business
suppliers than other oils, like soybean oil, which suggests that large-scale
corporate agreements are needed to make frying in corn oil cost effective for
fast food restaurants.