Long John Silver’s is switching to a trans-fat-free cooking oil in its domestic restaurants, projecting that all of its U.S. restaurants will have converted by the end of 2013.

The quick-service seafood chain’s restaurants located in cities or states that ban trans fats from restaurant food — notably New York City and California, which enacted bans in 2006 and 2008, respectively — switched their cooking oils years ago in compliance with local laws. In September, units that are transitioning will begin using trans-fat-free cooking oil for non-batter-dipped products, including French fries, hush puppies, clams, crab cakes, catfish and breaded-seafood items.

By the end of the year, all U.S. Long John Silver’s locations will use trans-fat-free cooking oil for all fried products.

“The move to trans-fat-free cooking oil is part of the evolution of Long John Silver’s to a contemporary, relevant seafood brand, which we began in 2012 after becoming an independent company,” chief executive Mike Kern said in a statement. “We have been launching new flavors, new products and new ways to enjoy Long John Silver’s, including the upcoming launch of a specialty, classic fish sandwich on Sept. 2.”

One of the items Long John Silver’s released this year was the Big Catch, a fillet of wild-caught haddock that was three times the size of its standard whitefish fillet. The item’s combo meal basket with hush puppies and onion rings was named the “Worst Restaurant Meal in America” by watchdog group the Center for Science in the Public Interest on July 1. In its report, the CSPI noted that its lab tests showed the Big Catch combo contained 33 grams of trans fat, nearly 3,700 milligrams of sodium and 1,320 calories.

The CSPI praised Long John Silver’s decision to remove trans fats from its restaurants.

“We are glad that Long John Silver’s will, by the end of the year, transition to a trans-fat-free oil for frying,” Michael Jacobson, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based CSPI, said in a statement. “We appreciate the speed and seriousness with which Long John Silver’s leadership addressed our concerns and made this important change for the better.”

A 2012 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that restaurants’ reductions in trans fats, done voluntarily and in compliance with changing laws, may have contributed to lower levels of trans fat reported in the blood of white American adults between 2000 and 2009.

During that time — which coincided with many restaurant brands reducing or eliminating their use of partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fat, and developing more non-fried menu items — the level of trans fat in white adults who participated in the CDC’s study fell 58 percent.

Several non-fried items were central to Long John Silver’s new-menu rollout this past January, the brand’s first culinary overhaul in more than a decade and its first under the leadership team that acquired the brand from Yum! Brands Inc. in 2011. Upgrades to side dishes and sauces followed throughout this year; the Ciabatta Jack Fish Sandwich is scheduled to roll out next week.

Louisville, Ky.-based Long John Silver’s franchises more than 1,275 restaurants in the United States and Asia.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN