Kentucky Fried Chicken, a unit of Louisville-based Yum! Brands, is facing a lawsuit over its use of partially hydrogenated oil, which is high in trans-fats, in cooking. Through its use of partially hydrogenated oil, the company “recklessly puts its customers at risk of a Kentucky Fried Coronary,” CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson claimed.

The suit, brought forward by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and retired physician Arthur Hoyte, of Rockville, Maryland, asks the Superior Court of the District Of Columbia to either ban the fast food giant from using these oils or force KFC to post signs in its outlets stating that KFC foods are high in trans-fats.

KFC already provides nutritional information on line and through in-store literature, the company said.

Hoyte had purchased fried chicken at KFC outlets not knowing that KFC fries in partially hydrogenated oil.

“If I had known that KFC uses an unnatural frying oil, and that their food was so high in trans fat, I would have reconsidered my choices,” said Dr. Hoyte. “I am bringing this suit because I want KFC to change the way it does business. And I’m doing it for my son and others’ kids – so that they may have a healthier, happier, trans-fat-free future.”

“District of Columbia law allows consumers to seek relief from the courts when companies fail to disclose essential facts about their products,” said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner. “That KFC uses the worst frying oil imaginable to prepare its chicken is something that KFC should absolutely be required to disclose at the point of purchase.”

The US Government recently introduced legislation requiring the labelling of trans fats in packaged foods, prompting many manufacturers to switch to non-hydrogenated oils.

“This lawsuit is meant to serve as wake-up call to the food industry that changes must be made to protect the consumer from known dangers to his or her health,” said Richard D. Heideman, senior counsel of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, P.C., who are representing Hoyte and CSPI.

However, KFC forcefully rejected these accusations. “This is a frivolous lawsuit completely without merit and we intend to vigorously defend our position,” th company said.

“All KFC products are safe to eat and meet or exceed all government regulations, and we take health and safety issues very seriously. … We have been reviewing alternative oil options, but there are a number of factors to consider including maintaining KFC’s unique taste and flavour of Colonel Sanders’ Original Recipe, supply availability and transportation, among others.”