Restaurants guilty of sponsoring "extreme eating" say food police

According to a consumer group in the U.S., chain restaurants are guilty of promoting "extreme eating" by offering patrons dishes loaded with calories.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says some meals contain at least a day's worth of calories and fat, but these facts are not presented to customers.

The CSPI says dishes such as cheese-laden chicken-and-pasta dish they dubbed "Angioplasta", help fuel national epidemics of obesity and heart disease.

The group have urged local, state and national governments to make restaurants list nutritional data on their menus.

The CSPI says menus which offer a 2,000-calorie appetizer, a 2,000-calorie main course and a 1,700 calorie dessert are par for the course at many chain restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday, On the Border, the Cheesecake Factory, amongst many others.

As such chains provide almost zero nutrition information on their menus, customers are unaware that they might be getting a whole day's worth of calories in a single dish, or several days' worth in the whole meal.

The CSPI says rather than compete to make their products healthier, restaurant chains are competing with each other to make their appetizers, entrées, and desserts bigger, badder, and cheesier than ever before.

Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of the CSPI says burgers, pizzas, and quesadillas were never health foods to begin with, but many restaurants are transmogrifying these foods into ever-more harmful new creations, and then keeping consumers in the dark about what they contain.

Jacobson says creations such as lasagna with meatballs on top, ice cream with cookies, brownies, and candy mixed in, ‘ranchiladas,' bacon cheeseburger pizzas, buffalo-chicken-stuffed quesadillas, and other hybrid horribles appear to be designed to promote obesity, heart disease, and stroke.

Jacobson's group is often critical of a variety of restaurant foods and they have been nicknamed the 'Food Police', but they believe a new era of extreme eating is upon us, and in order to deal with the epidemic of obesity and the tremendous prevalence of heart attacks and strokes, something must be done about restaurant foods.

Some of the "X-Treme Eating" examples highlighted in the March issue of CSPI's Nutrition Action Healthletter include:

  • Ruby Tuesday's "Colossal Burger" with 1,940 calories and 141 grams of fat equivalent to about five McDonald's Quarter Pounders.

  • Uno Chicago Grill's Pizza Skins a fusion of pizza and potato skin, which is meant to precede a meal of pizza, packs 2,050 calories, 48 grams of saturated fat, and 3,140 milligrams of sodium.

  • Cheesecake Factory's Chris' Outrageous Chocolate Cake is the equivalent of eating two Quarter Pounders plus a large fries - for dessert.

The average daily calorie requirement is about 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.

The trade group the National Restaurant Association said many restaurants provide nutritional information about their menus, and nearly all have healthy dishes available.

They say highlighting a few menu items at a few restaurants as being high in calories, and generalizing that to all restaurant fare is misleading, inaccurate and does the public a grave disservice.

But Jacobson says restaurants have had more than enough time to voluntarily provide nutritional data such as calorie, fat and salt content and many do not do this or else make the data hard to find.

Jacobson says restaurants have every right to produce such foods and the consumer has every right to eat them, but consumers should be given the information that would enable them to make some decent eating choices.

The New York City Board of Health with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will require chain restaurants that operate in the Big Apple to list calories on menus and menu boards starting this summer.

The CSPI says the time is ripe for other cities, states and Congress to pass Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL) legislation.

Such bills, which have been introduced in 19 cities and states in recent years, would apply only to standardized menu items at chain restaurants.

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