ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
The French fries at one of the nation's largest burger chains will soon be healthier. Wendy's is switching to a new kind of cooking oil that will sharply reduce harmful trans fats.
Nutritionists are applauding the move, but they have a beef with another change on the Wendy's menu, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:
Wendy's is the first national burger chain to make the switch in its cooking oil. McDonald's promised four years ago to cut down on trans fats, but the company hasn't gone beyond the testing stage. Last week, the Center for Science and the Public Interest filed a lawsuit against another fast food chain, hoping to force KFC to change the oil it uses to fry its chicken.
Wendy's spent two years searching for a new cooking oil. Senior Vice President Lori Estrada says the company has finally found a blend made from corn and soybeans that cuts trans fat without changing the taste of its French fries.
Ms. LORI ESTRADA (Senior VP, Wendy's): I don't know if customers will notice the difference. If anything, if you opt for some French fries, they're going to be lower in trans fats and lower in saturated fats, which is a good thing.
HORSLEY: Estrada says all 6,300 Wendy's restaurants in the U.S. and Canada should be using the new oil by the end of August. Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini says the chain has already made another change in its menu, this one with less fanfare.
Mr. BOB BERTINI (Wendy's): We are doing away with Biggie and Great Biggie in describing our drinks and French fries.
HORSLEY: Wendy's Biggie label has been a staple since the early 1990s, but the company is now is using standard names for its portion sizes - small, medium and large. That sounds simple enough, but is it?
Unidentified Man: Is the Biggie the large?
Unidentified Woman: No. The Biggie is medium.
HORSLEY: The 32-ounce soft drink that used to be called a Biggie is now called a medium. That's right, medium is the new Biggie. Wendy's didn't really didn't have a Giant Biggie soft drink before, so the new large drink at 42 ounces is bigger than anything that Wendy's has sold before.
Instead of a paper cup, the large drink comes in a plastic bucket with bold lettering on the side that promises a whole river of icy cold refreshment. Just about right for Tim Sherman, who's drinking a large Dr. Pepper.
Mr. TIM SHERMAN (Wendy's customer): Not a bad size. I mean they last a surprisingly long time. It's good from the heat too. I'm in a hot warehouse all day.
HORSLEY: But nutritionists see this new larger soft drink as a creeping caloric setback in the bulging battle against obesity. NYU professor Lisa Young, who wrote the book The Portion Teller, warns Wendy's subtle name change may encourage customers to eat and drink more than they should.
Ms. LISA YOUNG (NYU Professor): When something is called Biggie, you know that it's big and maybe you shouldn't finish it. Maybe you should think twice before you order it. I mean that's a quart of soda for one person. My worry is that calling it medium gives people the illusion that they can just drink it without guilt.
HORSLEY: Even a small soft drink at Wendy's is now 20 ounces. That's 25 percent bigger than before the name change.
Spokesman Bob Bertini says Wendy's is trying to give customers lots of choices, including bottled water instead of soft drinks and yogurt in lieu of French fries. As for the new 42-ounce soda - with up to 100 more calories than the old Biggie - he says it's not really intended to be drunk in a single sitting.
Mr. BERTINI: Most people, in that size drink, are people that would carry it with them and keep it in their office or at the construction site or perhaps at a park or a ballgame and consume it throughout the day.
HORSLEY: Indeed, the 42-ounce bucket has a tapered base, designed to fit into a car's cup holder. But Professor Young notes even cup holders have been getting bigger, along with restaurant serving sizes and American waistlines.
Scott Horsley, NPR News.