This Foodie Friday, I want to rant a bit on responsibility. What’s prompting this is a report from the Center For Science in the Public Interest on their annual awards for the 9 most unhealthy chain restaurant meals. I’ll admit that almost everything on the list sounded pretty good to me. After all, who doesn’t enjoy 7 cheeseburgers piled high on a bun? But my rant isn’t about chain restaurants offering dishes that are really unhealthy. We allow people to sell cigarettes and lots of other products that can potentially kill the consumer (cars, for example). Is it inherently irresponsible for businesses to create products that end up causing societal problems? You tell me. Diabetes is an epidemic but nearly every supermarket product has some form of added sugar and we’re just getting around to banning trans fats which bring about heart disease. I’d rather than any business person think about minimizing the damage before they offer something to the public but that’s probably wishful thinking.
Here is the thing: you’d have to be pretty stupid not to understand that you’re consuming a lot of calories and fat when you chow down with that 7 cheeseburger menu item. You probably don’t understand, however, that the 1,330 calories in the burger are accompanied with 47 grams of saturated fat and 4,570 mg of sodium. Let me quote the report on another dish which comes from The Cheesecake Factory:
The Louisiana Chicken Pasta, which weighs an impressive 1½ pounds, comes topped with four slices of heavily breaded chicken (in case you didn’t get enough white flour in the mound of pasta). Add the New Orleans sauce (butter and heavy cream), and your plate is up to 2,370 calories (more than a day’s worth), plus 80 grams of saturated fat (a four-day supply) and 2,370 milligrams of sodium (1½ days’ worth). For those numbers, you could have had two Fettuccine Alfredos plus two breadsticks at Olive Garden.
When you jump out of an airplane, you know it’s risky. When you get on a roller coaster, there are always signs explaining the risks. When you order many of the extremely unhealthy products available in restaurants, you’re generally flying blind. Even when the nutritional information is posted, it’s often inconspicuously posted on a wall someplace and it’s rarely on the menu near the copy that is pushing the product.
So back to responsibility. We all need to pay more attention to what we’re eating and we need to learn to ask questions about just how bad a dish is. At least that way we can attempt to minimize the damage by eating a bit better over the next couple of days. Marketers need to provide enough information to allow us to make intelligent choices. Killing your customers is almost always a bad idea, and encouraging them to kill themselves (slowly) without speaking up about the risks is, I think, irresponsible. At least someplace like the Heart Attack Grill is pretty upfront about the risks. You might not like it, but it’s responsible.