KFC announced today that it plans to switch to a chicken-frying oil that’s free of trans fats, a move that appears to have reheated the cold hearts of the food police at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Said food cops have withdrawn from the lawsuit against KFC that CSPI announced with much ballyhoo in June.
But the lawsuit itself isn’t going anywhere. At the very end of its press release applauding the oil change, CSPI quietly mentions that the trial lawyers it teamed up with are continuing their tort. If KFC’s actions don’t live up to CSPI’s (shifting) demands, the food cops “will take Colonel Sanders back to court.”
Almost as ridiculous as the original multi-billion-dollar lawsuit is CSPI’s implication that the suit is somehow responsible for the change. Alterations to the recipes behind the success of major corporations don’t happen overnight. In the case of trans fat-free oil, both taste and supply needed protection. Replicating that famous taste takes a lot of testing, and farmers can’t grow new strains of soybeans on a moment’s notice. Between the time needed for research and for agricultural considerations, the four months between the lawsuit and the change don’t amount to a hill of (trans fat-free) beans.
This morning USA TODAY added one final irony too good not to pass along. CSPI president Michael Jacobson told the paper that the change is “an important step in the right direction. It will give KFC a competitive edge.” True enough: A great way for a business to become more profitable is to offer products that cost less, whether in price or in health impact. But if capitalism really works, what reason does CSPI have to exist?