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McDonald's will roll out trans-fat-free oil for fries

CHICAGO -- McDonald's Corp. has finally selected a trans-fat-free oil for cooking its french fries after years of testing, the fast-food chain said yesterday.

While it has developed a healthier new oil, the company is not saying when it will be used in all 13,700 US restaurants. It already trails competitors in committing to a zero-trans fat oil.

Spokesman Walt Riker said the oil is currently in more than 1,200 US restaurants after extensive testing, but declined to provide details on timing or locations.

"We can confirm that we've got the right oil," he said. "We're phasing it in."

The choice of a new oil comes as McDonald's and others face a July 1 deadline to begin complying with an ordinance passed by New York City last month making it the first US city to ban all restaurants from using artificial trans fats.

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's has said for months it would comply with such a ban, and said it would introduce any new oil nationwide rather than have a separate oil for its New York restaurants. But it had not confirmed that testing was complete.

Riker said the new oil is canola-based and includes corn and soy oils.

Addressing long-held concerns that changing the oil could jeopardize the taste of its fries, he said: "We're very confident in our test and taste results . . . We're very confident in what we're hearing back from our customers."

The Chicago Tribune, which first reported McDonald's decision Sunday, said the company has tested 18 varieties of oil in more than 50 blends during the last seven years.

McDonald's had been under pressure for moving more slowly than smaller rivals Wendy's International Inc. and Yum Brands Inc.'s KFC and Taco Bell to rid its oil of the artery-clogging trans fats.

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