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Dunkin' Donuts to slash trans fats

Each serving to have under half a gram

Dunkin' Donuts does not claim to be offering a healthy doughnut, just a product that is better, the company says. Dunkin' Donuts does not claim to be offering a healthy doughnut, just a product that is better, the company says. (JOHN RUSSELL/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE 2003)

Dunkin' Donuts, the food-on-the-go chain whose name celebrates a treat that's symbolic of unhealthy eating, is trying to refresh its image by largely eliminating trans fat across its menu -- doughnuts included.

Dunkin' planned to announce today that it's developed an alternative cooking oil and reformulated more than 50 menu items. The Canton-based chain says its menu will be "zero grams trans fat" by Oct. 15 at its 5,400 US restaurants in 34 states.

About 400 locations nationwide that took part in a four-month test already have made the switch to a new blend of palm, soybean, and cottonseed oils. That includes all restaurants in New York City and Philadelphia, where municipal leaders are forcing restaurants to phase out their use of artery-clogging trans fat.

The ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins, another unit of Dunkin' Brands Inc. alongside Dunkin' Donuts, plans to be zero grams trans fat by Jan. 1.

Dunkin' isn't claiming it will become "trans fat free," but does say any trans fat in foods including doughnuts, croissants, muffins and cookies will fall below half a gram per serving. Federal regulations allow food labels to say they've got zero grams of trans fat, provided levels fall below the half-a-gram threshold.

"It's good news that they're dropping most, if not quite all, trans fat," said Jeff Cronin, spokesman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "If Dunkin' Donuts can do that, anyone can." But he cautioned that when it comes to doughnuts, "we're still talking about a food that's mostly white flour, sugar, and fat."

Dunkin' isn't positioning its namesake product as health food. "The goal was not to make a healthy doughnut, it was really to create a doughnut that was better," said Joe Scafido, Dunkin's chief creative and innovation officer.

The main source of trans fats is partially hydrogenated oils. Evidence suggests that artificial trans fats boost "bad" cholesterol and lower "good" cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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