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CSPI: Joe's Crab Shack is a 'shipwreck' of trans fat

The seafood at Joe’s Crab Shack is, well, swimming in artificial trans fat, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The watchdog group on Wednesday called on the national chain to stop using a partially hydrogenated margarine-butter blend that it says appears to be responsible for dangerously high levels of trans fat in the food it serves.

The CSPI also once again called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils altogether. In November, the FDA moved to virtually eliminate trans fat, an artificially created artery-clogging substance, from Americans' diets.

In one example cited by CSPI, Joe’s Pasta-laya, described as “shrimp and andouille sausage cooked in a garlic butter sauce full of mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions served over penne pasta,” has 14 grams of trans fat, or what CSPI said was roughly the American Heart Association’s recommended limit for a week. That dish also serves up 24 grams of saturated fat, or more than a day’s worth, CSPI said.

“Joe’s Crab Shack is a nutritional shipwreck of a restaurant chain, ruining expensive seafood with cheap, industrially produced trans fat designed to simulate butter,” CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said in a statement.  “Until the company fixes the problem and switches to a healthier substitute, eat at Joe’s at your own risk -- an increased risk of heart disease and premature death.”

Jim Mazany, president of Joe’s Crab Shack, clawed back in a statement, saying that the chain had already made progress in its goal of removing all trans fats from its menu. 

"This means that, to date, there are zero trans fats in our frying oil system-wide; some of our restaurants are already fully trans fat-free; and within 90 days, we intend to be completely trans fat-free in all restaurants," the statement said. 

Joe’s Crab Shack has a location in Schaumburg and one in Gurnee, among four in Illinois, according to the company’s website.

The chain actually announced a plan to eliminate trans fat back in 2007, according to a press release that CSPI pointed out on Wednesday.

However, CSPI said that one of its nutritionists recently photographed the label of the margarine used at one of the company’s Maryland locations, which shows that the product contains 3.5 grams of trans fat per tablespoon.

The FDA believes that further reduction in the amount of trans fat in Americans' diets could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year. 

It has required that nutritional labels break out trans fat content since 2006, and many restaurant chains and food companies have changed their recipes as a result.

Following its announcement in November, the agency’s review period to collect additional data on the topic ran through early March. Any ban was expected to come as a gradual process with full compliance expected within a few years.
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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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