26 May 2010

Menus pack KJ bomb despite laws

Laws requiring US restaurant chains to list kilojoule counts have not stopped them from offering unhealthy meals that pack in kilojoules, fat and salt, a health food group said.


Laws requiring US restaurant chains to list kilojoule counts have not stopped them from offering unhealthy meals that pack in kilojoules, fat and salt, a group that encourages healthy food said.

A pancake breakfast providing 5 795kj, a single-serve pizza that packs two days' worth of sodium and a pasta dish swimming in four day's worth of fat top a list published by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The group, which "outs" the kilojoule, fat and sodium counts of America's favourite foods every year, said it looked for evidence that restaurants are trimming back their offerings in the face of new laws and political pressure.

They found little.

'Kilojoule extreemism' in restaurants

"One might think that chains like Outback Steakhouse and The Cheesecake Factory might want to lighten up their meals now that kilojoules will be required on their menus, courtesy of the health care reform law signed in March," Michael Jacobson, executive director of the non-profit CSPI said.

"But these chains don't promote moderation. They practice kilojoule extremism, and they're helping make modern-day Americans become the most obese people ever to walk the Earth," he said in a statement.

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

President Barack Obama has appointed his wife Michelle Obama to head a panel fighting childhood obesity. Local governments from New York to California have limited transfats and required restaurant chains to list kilojoules on the menu.

The US Institute of Medicine says the average American needs about  8 400kj a day, 1,500 mg of salt and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat. Most get far more than this.

The food and restaurant industry has been lobbying for self-regulation, arguing that Americans need to control their own eating habits. But the Institute of Medicine says the US Food and Drug Administration should start regulating the food industry to help remove salt from food.

New York City, which has banned smoking and artificial transfats in restaurants, has pledged to coordinate a nationwide effort to reduce salt in restaurant and packaged foods by 25% over five years.

US healthcare reform legislation passed in March requires large chain restaurants to give kilojoule counts on menus. - (Reuters Health, May 2010)


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