They have been dubbed the “Food Police.” And the media eat it up like a 1000 calorie Triple Whopper with Cheese. Every year, like clockwork, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) releases lists of evil foods and every year, the media lap dogs oblige with funny puns and B roll of fat Americans walking down the street.
While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with pointing out that fattening foods are bad for you- it’s also stating the obvious. Over and over and over and over and over and over.
For network and local TV and Radio, the CSPI is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s become as standard and hack worn as the stand-up in front of the salt dome before the season’s first snow storm; the stand-up on the boardwalk on Memorial Day weekend, the stand-up on the side of the highway at the big truck accident, the stand-up at the shopping mall on Black Friday.
Media outlets were tripping all over themselves this week, including network reporters for NBC and ABC, to breathlessly report the latest “evil food” report from the CSPI.
The 2010 List
Am I missing something here? When you sit down to order at a restaurant do you not know that Cinnamon Cream Stacked & Stuffed Hotcakes just might contain a boatload of calories? Here are the latest indictments from the Food Police:
• Bob Evans’ Cinnamon Cream Stacked & Stuffed Hotcakes – 1,380 calories and 34 grams of saturated fat. Syrup adds another 200 calories for every four-tablespoon serving.
• California Pizza Kitchen’s Tostada Pizza with Grilled Steak – 1,680 calories, 32 grams of saturated fat, and more than 3,300 mg of sodium.
• California Pizza Kitchen’s Pesto Cream Penne – 1,350 calories, 49 grams of saturated fat, and 1,920 mg of sodium.
• Five Guys’ Bacon Cheeseburger – 920 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat. A large order of French fries at Five Guys adds 1,460 calories.
• P.F. Chang’s Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo – 1,820 calories and 7,690 milligrams of sodium.
• The Cheesecake Factory’s Pasta Carbonara with Chicken – 2,500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat.
• The Cheesecake Factory’s Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake – 1,670 calories and 48 grams of saturated fat.
• Outback’s New Zealand Lamb – 1,820 calories, 80 grams of saturated fat, and 2,600 mg of sodium.
• Chevys’ Crab & Shrimp Quesadilla – 1,790 calories, 63g of saturated fat, and 3,440 mg of sodium.
The CSPI and their media friends went after Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Chili’s and (again) the Cheesecake Factory. Not that I would, for one moment, think there might be something fattening at a place called the Cheesecake Factory.
• Red Lobster Ultimate Fondue: This retro item is also making comebacks at Olive Garden, Uno Chicago Grill, and at a chain that sells nothing but fondues, The Melting Pot.
• Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger: Here Applebee’s inserts a bacon cheeseburger into a quesadilla. Two flour tortillas, two kinds of meat, two kinds of cheese, pico de gallo, lettuce, and a previously unknown condiment called Mexi-ranch sauce, plus fries, gives this monstrous marriage 1,820 calories, 46 grams of saturated fat, and 4,410 mg of sodium. \
• Chili’s Big Mouth Bites: This is four mini-bacon-cheeseburgers served on a plate with fries, onion strings, and jalapeno ranch dipping sauce.
• The Cheesecake Factory Chicken and Biscuits: Nutrition Action calls it “discomfort food.” If you wouldn’t eat an entire 8-piece bucket of KFC Original Recipe plus 5 biscuits, you shouldn’t order this.
Ah, the year we all freaked out about popcorn. The media headline spoon-fed by the CSPI was “Movie Theatre Popcorn: Threat or Menace.” The key finding- hang on to your hats- popcorn is really bad for you if you put a lot of butter on it.
Sorry to ruin the movie for you, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest visited a number of theaters in the three largest chains, Regal, AMC and Cinemark, and bought popcorn in various sizes for analysis by an independent lab. Then they issued a report on the results, which included phrases like “the Godzilla of snacks.” .
No- they are NOT sorry they ruined the movie for you. They are thrilled and excited that they ruined the movie for you. They wouldn’t have made their headlines and continued to justify their existence if they hadn’t ruined the movie for you.
Another banner year for the CSPI. They went on the attack against Ruby Tuesday’s, Uno Chicago Grill and- oh, lookie here- the Cheescake Factory.
You’ll notice the universal measurement of all evil- the McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder. “Like eating five quarter-pounders!” “Like eating 22 quarter-pounders!” They also use this technique of finding another food that has high caloric content and adding it to the standard Quarter-pounder bench-mark. They did it with popcorn in 2008; “like eating five quarter-pounders with 12 pads of butter!”
• Ruby Tuesday’s “Colossal Burger.” Equivalent to about five McDonald’s Quarter Pounders.
• Uno Chicago Grill’s “Pizza Skins.” “We start with our famous deep dish crust, add mozzarella and red bliss mashed potatoes, and top it off with crispy bacon, cheddar, and sour cream,” says the menu.
• Ruby Tuesday’s “Fresh Chicken & Broccoli Pasta.” Pity the poor diner who thinks this healthy sounding entrée is on the light side.
• Cheesecake Factory’s “Chris’ Outrageous Chocolate Cake.” It’s the equivalent of eating two Quarter Pounders plus a large fries—for dessert.
But the real headline in ’07 was the CSPI’s frontal assault on the evils of Chinese food. This was actually an updated version of their original much-publicized attack on Chinese food first released in 1993.
WASHINGTON—Popular Chinese restaurant meals can contain an entire day’s worth of sodium and some contain two days’ worth, according to a new analysis by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.
It’s not just food. They don’t like alcohol either. This was the year the CSPI criticized NASCAR for having beer sponsors. Isn’t that kind of like criticizing the Catholic Church for using communion wafers?
“Linking drinking with high-speed driving—in front of audiences that include millions of young people—is asking for trouble,” said CSPI alcohol policies director George A. Hacker.
Cool. CSPI has an “alcohol policies director.” I’m inviting him to my next cocktail party. I’m sure he’s a wild one.
Notable for the sarcastic Happy Birthday message to McDonald’s on their 50th anniversary:
McDonald’s deserves a lot of the blame for having transformed the way America eats. We now eat quicker, and in what would have seemed like bizarre or impolite ways many years ago. (In our cars, for instance). What was once an occasional treat or convenience has morphed into a once-, twice-, or thrice-a-day indulgence.
Not only is the CSPI the enemy of calories and fat, but also “bizarre and impolite” ways of eating.
This was the year of the CSPI’s attack on Chipotle and their third assault on Mexican or Mexican-like food.
Among CSPI’s findings:
• Chipotle’s Chicken Burrito (with black beans, rice, cheese, and salsa) weighs in at nearly 1,000 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat.
• Chipotle’s Vegetarian Burrito (with black beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, and salsa) weighs over a pound and provides 1,120 calories and three-quarters of a day’s worth of saturated fat (14 grams).
• Chipotle’s Barbacoa Burrito (with shredded beef, pinto beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa) hits nearly 1,300 calories and three-quarters of a day’s worth of saturated fat. That’s the equivalent of a Quarter Pounder, a large order of fries, and a large Coke.
• Chipotle’s Chicken Burrito Bols–burritos without the 340-calorie flour tortillas–are CSPI’s only recommended “Better Bites” at Chipotle. A Bol with chicken, black beans, lettuce, and salsa, has just 430 calories and four grams of saturated fat. Rice instead of lettuce adds about 200 calories.
Ah- notice the evil Barbacoa Burrito- as bad as a “Quarter-Pounder and a large order of fries and a coke.”
In 2003, the CSPI also attacked ice cream.
• Ben & Jerry’s empty Waffle Cone Dipped in Chocolate has 320 calories and a half a day’s worth of saturated fat—the equivalent of a half-pound rack of BBQ baby back ribs. Fill it with a regular scoop of Chunky Monkey Ice Cream and the cone becomes worse (820 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat) than a full one-pound rack of ribs.
• Cold Stone Creamery’s regular Mud Pie Mojo—a mixture of coffee ice cream, roasted almonds, fudge, Oreos, peanut butter, and whipped topping—is the equivalent of two Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas (1,180 calories and 26 grams of saturated fat).
• Häagen-Dazs’ Mint Chip Dazzler is a portable sundae with three scoops of mint chip ice cream, hot fudge, Oreos, chocolate sprinkles, and whipped cream. Nutritionally, it’s like eating a T-bone steak, Caesar salad, and a baked potato with sour cream (1,270 calories and 38 grams of saturated fat).
This was the year of the CSPI major assault on all Fast Food chains but particularly Burger King.
• Burger King Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shake. It looks like an ordinary shake. But thanks to the ice cream, a medium (22 oz.) has 760 calories and 29 grams of heart-breaking fat (1 ½ days’ worth).
• Burger King Fries. Burger King’s French Fries are the worst. Period. A King Size order has 600 calories and 30 grams of fat, 16 of which are saturated plus trans fat.
• Burger King Hash Browns. This breakfast side order can ruin your diet for the entire day. A large order has 15 grams (three-quarters of a day’s worth) of saturated plus trans fat.
• Burger King Double Whopper with Cheese. A wider burger and a wider bun make a single Whopper worse than a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Big Mac. A second slab of beef brings the total to 1,150 calories and 33 grams of saturated plus trans fat.
• Value Meals. All Value Meals offer an economic incentive to stuff your gut, and Burger King’s are the worst. A Burger King Whopper Value Meal’s calories range from 1,300 to 1,800 depending on the size of the soft drink and the fries.
Oh…the tons of media publicity they got this year. This was the major assault on Mexican food. Most of the media had forgotten they had done their “evil Mexican food” pieces back in 1994, so they went back for a second helping.
One serving of nachos that deliver more than 1,300 calories and more than a day’s worth of fat, saturated fat, and sodium? In recognition of that nutritional train wreck, the Center Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) Nutrition Action Healthletter has named Taco Bell’s Mucho Grande Nachos its Food Porn of the Month for December. The Mucho Grande Nachos get their overload of fat and calories from the ground beef and melted cheese that smother deep-fried nacho chips. Nutrition Action says that the Mucho Grande Nachos “is the perfect food if you don’t mind ending up with mucho grande doctor bills … and a mucho grande posterior.
You’d have to salsa dance all night to burn off this nacho dish. Each ingredient on its own raises red flags — put them all together and you’ve got a world-class Food Porn,” said CSPI senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley. “Eating one order of Mucho Grande Nachos is like eating five Beef Tacos — plus an order of regular nachos. I don’t recommend eating either meal.
The new millennium saw the CSPI go after Greek food.
WASHINGTON – The first-ever study of popular dishes from Greek restaurants shows that some entrées are among the most healthful foods available at any restaurant, while others are as bad for your heart as two McDonald’s Big Macs. The good news is that the chicken, lamb, or pork souvlaki (kebobs) are great choices — fairly low in fat and rich in vegetables,” said CSPI senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley, who conducted the study. “The heart-throbbingly bad news is the fat-filled moussaka and gyro.”
Ooops…somebody at the CSPI didn’t get the memo and compared Greek food to Big Macs instead of the time-honored Quarter-Pounder.
Those damn, greasy, good-for-nothing Mexicans. In their attitude and disdain for Mexican culture, the CSPI was 16 years ahead of the state of Arizona:
Rice, beans, and tortillas. What a foundation for a healthy cuisine.
So why were we scratching our cabezas as we looked at the results of our laboratory test of Mexican restaurant food?
• An order of Beef & Cheese Nachos with as much fat as ten glazed doughnuts at Dunkin’ Donuts.
• A Chicken Burrito dinner with 1 day’s worth of sodium.
• A Chile Relleno dinner with as much saturated fat as 27 slices of bacon!
Only one of the dishes we tested – chicken fajitas – was decent enough to recommend … if you order it without the beans, sour cream, and guacamole. That was the good news. The sad part was that, unlike Chinese or Italian restaurant food, it’s tough to make Mexican better.
Hey CSPI- Take your cabezas and put ‘em up your culo.
In 1994…the CSPI also announced its disgust for all Italian food:
The next time you reach for the dinner menu at your favorite Italian eatery, consider this:
Order Fettuccine Alfredo and you stuff your arteries with as much saturated fat as three pints of Breyer’s Butter Almond ice cream. Have Eggplant Parmigiana and you might as well devour five egg rolls. Eat an order of Fried Calamari as an appetizer and you down more cholesterol than a four-egg omelet.
If this post seems excessive; don’t blame me. Blame the Center for Science in the Public Interest and their obsessive goody-two-shoes sermonizing of the obvious year after year. Fattening food is bad for you…fattening food is bad for you!
But after awhile, watching the predictable annual media orgies over the CSPI’s latest round of manufactured outrage over this food or that food- this caution from someone who has researched this CSPI publicity machine; and I’ll put it in big bold letters:
Caution Caution Caution
Continual exposure to the CSPI’s press releases and news conferences can lead to the same amount of indigestion produced by consuming 37 Quarter Pounders with 75 pads of butter placed inside a two-ton pastry shell filled with 4,700 pounds of whipped cream over 20 layers of gyro meat.