Beware the Fast Food Nation's Calorie-Industrial Complex

The consumption industries deserve a share of the blame for transforming us into a nation of Humpty Dumpties.

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I have taken some heat for suggesting, the other day, that Americans are too fat. And for not recognizing the role of Congress, lobbyists, the food industry and the media in encouraging Americans to eat sugary fatty foodstuffs.

This was, indeed, an oversight. What we put in our bellies is, ultimately, an individual decision. But the consumption industries surely deserve a share of the blame for transforming us into a nation of Humpty Dumpties. We are bombarded by ads offering us every sort of high-caloric bliss.

[ See where the food and drink industry gives its campaign contributions.

Several years ago, to try and keep straight what will make me healthy or dead (as Lewis Black says, “Milk…good or bad?”) I subscribed to the Nutrition Action Newsletter, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The Center has a regular feature called “Food Porn.” Consider its most recent entry, about the Grand Slamwich at Denny’s restaurants. Everyone knows what a Grand Slam breakfast is--eggs, bacon and sausage with a couple of flapjacks to cleanse the palate. But Denny’s has concluded, said the Center, that starting the day with 860 calories wasn’t enough.

Want a Slam you can hold in your hands? Denny’s has you covered. The Grand Slamwich has “two scrambled eggs, sausage, crispy bacon, shaved ham, mayonnaise and American cheese on potato bread grilled with a maple spice spread.” In case that’s too skimpy, the Slamwich comes with hash browns.

Even without the hash browns, your sandwich hits 1,320 calories and two days’ worth of sat fat (42 grams) and sodium (3,070 mg). It has the calories of 4½ McDonald’s Egg McMuffins...with an extra 20 grams of sat fat. Bonus: the Slamwich holds a regular smorgasbord of processed meats that may raise your risk of diabetes and colon cancer. And not a fruit or vegetable (other than fried potatoes) in sight!

With ordinary hash browns, the sandwich hits 1,530 calories. Get the Everything Hash Browns instead and the cheese and gravy boost your grand total to 1,800 calories, 50 grams of sat fat, and 6,890 mg of sodium.

I don’t know about you, but 1800 calories is about what I need to live on for a day.

And why single out Denny’s? Were McDonald’s quarter-pounder meals so meager, the Center asks, that we needed to up the portion to third-pounders?

Two out of three Americans are overweight or obese. Obesity rates have doubled in children and teens. And McDonald's wants us to shift from Quarter Pounders to Third Pounders. Why not Half Pounders? Or Full Pounders?

It didn’t take long for Burger King to up the ante. They came up with the Steakhouse XT Burger--at almost half a pound. I wonder what that makes the Whopper now. The Wimper? And did I miss the clamor for pasta, as served by Domino’s, in a bowl made of bread? Hey kids, don’t just clean your plate, now you can eat the dishes!

And we wonder why we spend so much more than other countries on health care.