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A Whopper of a Policy

April 3, 2007

Although it does not go into effect until July 1, the recently passed Board of Health rule requiring restaurants to list calorie data next to each menu item in the same size print is already causing some noticeable changes. When the rule goes into effect, it will only apply to restaurants that already list nutritional information for their standardized menus, thus mostly affecting fast food establishments. In response, some fast food chains, including Wendy’s and White Castle, have stopped posting nutritional information in their establishments in order to avoid compliance with the rule. Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, personally witnessed the trend of nutritional informational removal. Berg had this to say:

As you know, the Department of Health’s new regulation requiring restaurants to have clearer nutritional labeling applied to chains that had some information already posted prior to the implementation. There were some media reports that certain chains actually took down their already-posted nutrition information before the deadline in order to avoid having to comply. But now I have seen it with my own eyes: the Burger King right next to the NYCCAH office on Beaver Street did in fact recently take down their large nutrition information poster. So, unfortunately, the City’s good-intentioned effort had the practical impact of reducing the nutrition information available to consumers.

An interesting Burger King fact: its costs LESS to get a medium fries and medium soda than to get a small fries and a small soda, because the “value meals” only come in the medium or large sizes. The cash registers literally won’t ring up smaller sizes for the value meals.

Yet, according to nutritional information available at the Burger King web site (but not on their wall), the nutritional difference between medium and small sizes is massive. A double cheeseburger is 500 calories and 29 grams of fat, not counting fries and a drink. Small fries are 230 calories and 13 grams of fat and a small coke is 140 calories and 0 grams of fat. Medium fries are 360 calories and 18 grams of fat and a medium coke is 200 calories and 0 grams of fat.

Thus, a double cheeseburger with small fries and a small coke equal 870 calories and 42 grams of fat; a double cheeseburger with medium fries and a medium coke equal 1,060 calories and 47 grams of fat. Given that USDA recommends that the average adult should eat about 2,000 calories per day, the small meal would comprise 44% of that, but the medium meal would be 53% of the daily caloric needs.

Even worse, large fries equal 500 calories and a large coke equals 290 calories. A double cheeseburger, large fries, and a large coke would be 1,290 calories, or 64% of a person’s daily caloric needs.

To further stress the point, the “king”-size fries equals 600 calories and a “king”-size coke equals 390 calories. Thus a double cheeseburger, king-size fries, and a king-size coke would be 1,490 calories, meaning that this one meal would equal 75% of a person’s caloric need for a a whole day. No wonder they don’t want to post nutritional information. Perhaps it’s time for a revised City law/regulation to require restaurants to have real nutrition information easily available to their customers.”

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