Bloomberg Scores Front Row Seat to This Year’s “Food Porn” Gala

Coca Cola is taking the offensive. It’s set to launch a risky public relations campaign on the back of at least two new TV advertisements designed to help it grab the high road in the nation’s ongoing “obesity debate.” “The long-term health of our families and our country is at stake, and as the nation’s leading beverage company, we can play an important role,” said a Coke spokesperson. The first ad is aimed at policy makers, but a second ad, to be broadcast Wednesday during the first episode of the new season for “American Idol,” will focus on consumers. The ad will offer ideas about how to work off calories, like walking the dog for 25 minutes, doing an NFL victory dance or… walking the dog again.

“This is not about changing their products but about confusing the public,” said Michele R. Simon, a public health lawyer. “Coke is downplaying the serious health effects of drinking too much soda and making it sound like balancing soda consumption with exercise is the only issue, when there are plenty of other reasons not to consume too much of these kinds of products.” Of course, here’s the bottom line: The American Beverage Association, the organization that represents the industry, has filed a lawsuit against New York City to defeat soda tax initiatives. As proposed, were such taxes to pass, it would be a disastrous precedent. “They (the industry) are clearly running scared and for good reason,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

But the truth is, no one will be running too far if they choose to wash down the following dishes with their favorite non-diet beverage. Known as the “food police,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer-focused nonprofit group that promotes healthier eating, just announced this year’s “food porn” winners –an “alert” to consumers about common menu items that contain obscene levels of calories, saturated fat, sugar and/or sodium.

Here are this year’s porn stars:

  • Cheesecake Factory’s Crispy Chicken Costoletta with 2,610 calories, 89 grams of saturated fat and 2,720 milligrams of sodium. CSPI said an entire 12-piece bucket of KFC Original Recipe fried chicken has about the same number of calories but less than half the saturated fat.
  • Johnny Rockets’ Bacon Cheddar Double Hamburger with 1,770 calories, 50 grams of saturated fat and 2,380 milligrams of sodium. For comparison, three Quarter Pounders with Cheese from McDonald’s have 1,570 calories.
  • Smoothie King’s Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie, which includes peanut butter, banana, sugar and grape juice. A 40-ounce large size of that drink has 1,460 calories and 22 teaspoons of added sugar plus 29 teaspoons of naturally occurring sugar.
  • Chocolate Zuccotto Cake from Maggiano’s Little Italy. One slice weighs nearly one pound and has 1,820 calories, 62 grams of saturated fat and 26 teaspoons of added sugar — or 15 Hostess Ho Hos, CSPI said.

Organizations like CSPI have found a figure head in Mayor Bloomberg. Good for them, bad for us. Am I proving myself to be fully unenlightened? I won’t say what I’m really thinking. What I will say is that if Burger King’s Bacon Sundae can’t even get an “X” rating, then I’m going to have to add a visit to the Cheesecake Factory to my bucket list.

—Tom Finn

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