The worst meal in America at a restaurant is...
Although seafood is usually a healthy choice on a restaurant menu, that’s not the case when it’s dipped in batter and then deep-fried, especially if it’s also served with greasy side dishes like hush puppies and onion rings.
So guess what the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) named “the worst restaurant in America” last week?
The winner (or shall we say loser) is (drumroll please)…
Long John Silver's new "Big Catch" meal, which debuted in May, weighing in at a whopping 1,320 calories, with around 33 grams of trans fat and almost 3,700 milligrams of sodium.
That’s one whopper (no, not the burger) of a fattening meal – and over two weeks’ worth of the maximum daily intake of fat recommended by the American Heart Association (and that’s no lie).
"No exaggeration,” said Jeff Cronin, CSPI's director of communications. “No one here has ever seen this much trans fat in a meal."
At nearly every Long John Silver’s restaurant in the nation, the fish in the “Big Catch” meal is fried in partially hydrogenated oil, which is loaded with trans fats – the kind associated with heart disease.
Trans fat intake has significantly decreased in the U.S. as a result of efforts to increase awareness of its health effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Indeed, Kentucky Fried Chicken switched in 2006 to trans-fat-free oil after CSPI sued KFC over its use of partially hydrogenated oils.
So how did CSPI catch how much trans fat was swimming in the “Big Catch” meal?
For starters, they went fishing by visiting several Long John Silver's restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area, commissioning tests from the laboratory Eurofins. And what the lab caught from this fishing expedition was so surprising, it prompted the CSPI to call the Big Catch meal a “heart attack on a hook”.
CSPI also found something else fishy about the meal.
Long John Silver’s Chief Marketing Officer, Charles St. Clair claims the following on the company’s website: “The Big Catch is a big menu item for Long John Silver’s not just in size but also in value,” says St. Clair, who then adds: “It’s the largest fish we have ever offered weighing in at 7-8 ounces of 100 percent premium Haddock caught in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.”
But that statement is more like a “big fish story”, based on what the CSPI found.
"It turns out that when Long John Silver's says 7 to 8 ounces of 100 percent haddock, it's more like 60 percent haddock, and 40 percent batter and grease," said Michael Jacobson, CSPI Executive Director. "Nutrition aside, that's just plain piracy."
Put simply, once the breading was removed, all that was left was about 4 to 5 ounces of pure fish.
"In our mind, this is the worst,” Jacobson said. “It's the Mount Everest of trans fat."
Meanwhile, Long John Silver’s has responded to CSPI’s findings in a statement on the restaurant’s website.
“We stand behind our published food data and will review any requests from CSPI that raise questions about our data,” the statement reads in part. The Big Catch is a limited-time special "that delivers tremendous value to value hungry consumers," the statement added.
SOURCE: 1. Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), “Worst Meal in America” (July 1, 2013); 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PDF: Download Trans Fat: The Facts (April 12, 2012); 3. Long John Silver’s, News & Events: “LJS Statement Regarding the BIG Catch Promotion”, “Long John Silver's Reels in the Big Catch”.