Taco Bell in Sticky Situation Over Oil

A consumer group thinks that Taco Bell needs an oil change.

The privately run Center for Science in the Public Interest on Monday urged the fast-food chain to stop frying its taco shells in coconut oil, a saturated fat that has been implicated in the development of heart disease.

The Washington health lobby sent a letter to Taco Bell's president, John Martin, asking that the company, a Pepsico division headquartered in Irvine, start frying its foods in something less saturated, such as soybean oil.

Both Burger King and McDonald's last year switched from beef fat to either corn or soybean oil blends, according to Michael F. Jacobson, president of the center. "We hope that Taco Bell will emulate these companies by switching to a more heart-healthy vegetable oil."

But sometimes you just can't win for losing.

A spokesman for Taco Bell said that one reason the fast-food chain uses coconut oil is because it has no cholesterol. Coconut oil also "has a preferred taste" for frying the company's tacos and tostadas, explained Elliott Bloom.

Bloom added that the chain's new soft taco--which comes wrapped in an unfried tortilla--uses no coconut oil at all.

Nonetheless, Taco Bell is "aware of the saturated fats issue and is looking at alternative oils," Bloom said.

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