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D.C. Group Sues KFC

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NEW YORK In what it hopes will be a wake-up call for the fast-food industry, the Center for Science in Public Interest filed a class action suit in Washington on June 12 against Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The suit asks that the court stop the chicken chain from using unhealthy partially hydrogenated oil, or at least to warn consumers that its foods are high in trans fat. Trans fats have been linked with high levels of cholesterol and heart disease.

KFC's food is "something that can quite literally take years off of your life," said executive director Michael Jacobson of CSPI, Washington, D.C. "KFC knows this, yet it recklessly puts its customers at risk."

KFC, on the strength of its low-cost Snacker sandwiches and other items, had a strong 2005 as its U.S. sales increased 5.8 percent to $5.2 billion, per Technomic, Chicago. KFC could not be reached for comment.

Last week, Wendy's became the first fast feeder to announce it was removing most trans fast from its menu. It also banished its "Biggie" size. The Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain has also switched to healthier canola oil.

While consumers' health is certainly a concern, creating a class action suit is "an inappropriate tool to try and affect social policy," said Bruce Duffield, a lawyer with the international law firm Bryan Cave, Chicago. "They are a very expensive and ineffective way to bring about social change."

CSPI is well known for its high-profile lawsuits. It most recently targeted Cadbury Schweppes for marketing its 7 Up soda as "100 percent natural."

These suits are "a reflection that people refuse responsibility for their choices," said Duffield. "They are driven by plaintiffs' attorneys who could receive a windfall should they succeed."