Are Wendy's New Natural Cut Fries Worth Their Weight in Sea Salt?

Are Wendy's new, natural cut fries worth their weight in sea salt?  Well there certainly has been quite a bit of talk on the web and in the mommy circles the last few weeks about the new, natural cut fries.  Still, Wendy's new, sea salted fries have gotten a lot of bad press, and word of mouth, as consumers either do not like the natural cut fries or think Wendy's is doing a little greenwashing.

Some folks think anything fried is bad for you and to a certain extent I would agree.  A medium sized fry will still cost you about 500 calories.  Still, could these new fries become a welcomed guilty pleasure that lets you take a walk on the more natural side?  A lot of it depends on how frequently you eat fried foods, your general health, what you are frying and what type of oil you are using.

You might remember that I am no fan of TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone).  Well I was just alerted to the fact (by Jane Hersey, Director of the Feingold Association of the US) that, to her knowledge,  there there are only a few fast food restaurant chains which use an oil free of TBHQ for their fries; Five Guys, In N' Out and now happily Wendy's.  It seems that although they still have a long way to go to eliminate preservatives from their entire menu (think chicken nuggets), their new, natural cut fries are free of TBHQ.  This is great news to consumers everywhere. 

So great, the new, natural cut fries are free of TBHQ, but how do they taste?  The verdict from two of my girls and myself is that they taste even better than Wendy's old fries.  All three of us especially loved the new sea salt that Wendy's is using.  I think the skin of the potato being visible is flipping some people out (although I would love to get the nutritional benefit from even more skin) and the inside of the fry definitely does not have that mashed potato consistency.  Perhaps this new fry will take some getting used to for some, but for me and my family, they are a welcomed, guilty pleasure.

Thanks Wendy's and keep up the good work.  Now about those nuggets...

Update 4-18-11: From Wendy's Natural Cut Fries: Better Tasting, Yes. Natural, No by Melanie Warner

And Then the Not-So-Natural Part

Then come the not-so-natural parts. The fries are sprayed with sodium acid pyrophosphate, a chemical that prevents them from turning brown from two baths in frying oil -- one at the factory and the other at the store. They're also dusted with dextrose, a sugar derived from corn, for similar purposes. For comparison, Five Guy's fries don't need sodium acid pyrophosphate or dextrose because they're only fried once and aren't frozen.

And just like every other large fast food chain, Wendy's frying oil is dosed with dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone-based chemical that helps keep the vegetable oil from getting foamy after countless rounds of frying. (Five Guys doesn't use dimethylpolysiloxane either because their peanut frying oil is more stable than the standard soybean and canola varieties.) Wendy's Natural Cut fries are also frozen like everybody else's, even though it's a big point of distinction for Wendy's that their hamburgers aren't.

Wendy's has also highlighted that it uses "100% Russet potatoes," but John Keeling of the National Potato Council says that this is not a selling point. "Virtually all processed French fries are Russets," he said in an email.

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