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Burger King debuted its ?Enormous Omelet Sandwich? last week, sending left arms everywhere into an unpleasant tingling with 750,000 sold. Just as the fast food industry seemed to be showing more concern for its victims, it has taken an obese step backwards.
This colossus of one sausage patty, two eggs, two cheese slices, and three strips of bacon contains 730 calories, 47 grams of fat, and 415 milligrams of cholesterol. That?s 330 more milligrams of cholesterol than a Whopper! As Morgan Spurlock, director of the anti-fast-food documentary Super Size Me, has suggested, the Enormous Omelet Sandwich ?should come with a $5-off coupon for your first angioplasty.? Sadly, Burger King?s abomination is not unique.
For those who like to clog their arteries at lunch or dinner, Hardee?s introduced a Monster Thickburger in November. The burger contains two 1/3-pound beef patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese, and mayonnaise, weighing in at 1420 calories, 107 grams of fat, and 230 milligrams of cholesterol.
?In comparison to the Monster Thickburger, something grossly unhealthy like a Big Mac is practically a health food,? said Meat Market author Erik Marcus on his radio show. ?Hats off to the Hardee?s people for treating their customers with the same degree of care [with which] the tobacco companies treat their customers.?
Like its executives? and customers? hearts, the fast food industry has come under tremendous attack. Two CEOs of the industry-leading McDonald?s have died in the last year, at ages 44 and 60, from colorectal cancer and a heart attack, respectively. Lawsuits have blamed fast food for causing obesity; Super Size Me blamed McDonald?s for complete loss of health; and Eric Schlosser?s book Fast Food Nation blamed fast food for everything else. One would expect the fast food industry to work toward improving its image.
The current trend of pile-on-the-meat meals only invites more deserved criticism. A high-fat, animal-based diet is the leading cause of death from heart disease, whereas plant-based foods have no cholesterol and minimal saturated fat.
Meat-eaters are twice as likely as vegetarians to die of cancer, as diet is linked to more than half of all cancers. Between one-third and one-half of Americans are overweight, whereas Americans on a purely herbivorous diet weigh 10 to 20 pounds less on average. The healthful thing to do is to eat more veggies and ditch the meat habit. The fast food industry cannot claim innocence as it takes an active role in worsening matters.
Despite the despicable disdain for consumers? health, there is hope. As the fast food industry handles its current crisis, now more than ever, there seems to be a window of opportunity.
Fast food chains have begun to offer vegetarian selections that expose Americans to an overall healthier way of living. Burger King introduced its BK Veggie at all of its nearly 8000 U.S. locations in 2002, the single largest investment in vegetarianism ever. McDonald?s is experimenting with its McVeggie in select regions of North America, and might expand its sales if the trial run is successful.
Even Monster Thickburger and Big Mac advocates recognize the need for healthier food. Hardee?s introduced a sandwich with only four grams of fat shortly after the Monster Thickburger. McDonald?s has led the way with salads and recently became the top purchaser of apples in the country.
If Americans must depend on fast food out of routine and convenience, at least they can now flirt with a healthier lifestyle altogether rather than being Whoppered to death.
The fast food industry is full of ups and downs and is at a crossroads like never before. In the face of scrutiny, it can continue to promote heart disease, or it can become a mainstream vehicle for healthful living with plentiful vegetarian options. I am worried by the likelihood of the former, but at least there is hope.