Laboratory tests by the Center for Science in the Public Interest show that Long John Silver's "Big Catch" meal – made up of fried fish, Hushpuppies, and Onion Rings – has 33 grams of trans fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, and nearly 3,700 milligrams of sodium.
Other fast-food meals have more calories – the Big Catch has "only" 1,320 – but when it comes to clogging arteries, the Big Catch is by far the "Worst Restaurant Meal in America," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the center, a consumer advocacy organization.
The 33 grams of trans fat in the Big Catch meal comes from partially hydrogenated frying oil.
The American Heart Association recommends that consumers limit themselves to about two grams of trans fat per day. That’s about as much as a consumer might eat from trans fat in milk and meat.
Long John Silver's Big Catch meal with onion rings has 16 times as much trans fat as the heart association recommends, more than two weeks' worth, Jacobson said.
Most major chains have stopped using partially hydrogenated oil, in response to bad publicity, lawsuits, and local government restrictions.
The center notified Long John Silver's CEO Mike Kern that the chain will be sued if it continues to use partially hydrogenated oil in its deep fryers and if it continues to misrepresent both the amount of fish in the meal and the nutrition information for the side items, he said.
In addition, the center has notified the Food and Drug Administration of its findings and urged the agency to revoke its approval of partially hydrogenated oil. In 2004, the center petitioned the FDA to ban partially hydrogenated oil and require that restaurants inform customers when their foods are prepared with that oil. The FDA rejected the second petition, but hasn’t approved or denied the call for a ban.
"It is extremely important to understand that the partially hydrogenated oil in Long John Silver's meals, other restaurant foods, and packaged foods are contributing to thousands of premature deaths annually," the center said in its petition. "The FDA is failing its responsibility to the public by leaving that slow-killing ingredient in our food supply."