Is Denny's trying to kill its customers? A recent Huffington Post article asks that question, while explaining a class-action lawsuit being waged against Denny's for adding excessive amounts of sodium in many of its meals. (As you read the excerpt, keep in mind that people over 40, African Americans, and people with high blood pressure should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. The rest of the population can safely consume about 2,300 mg per day (equivalent to one teaspoon of salt).)
Three-quarters of Denny's meals have more than 1,500 mg of sodium. For 70 percent of the population, the only way to eat healthfully at Denny's without exceeding that recommended limit would be to fast for the rest of that day--and part of the next day or two. One would still also have to order very carefully, since many possible meals at Denny's provide 3,000 or 4,000 or even 6,000 mg of sodium. It's a culinary crime spree.
Consider a double cheeseburger with French fries. Most people know that's not a health food. At McDonald's, that meal has about 1,500 mg of sodium--a day's worth for most of us. Denny's (bigger) double cheeseburger with fries has 4,130 mg of sodium. That's 275 percent of the recommended daily limit.
A full dinner at Denny's can be even worse. Say you start with a bowl of clam chowder, and move on to a Spicy Buffalo Chicken Melt sandwich and seasoned fries. That meal has 6,700 mg of sodium (along with 1,700 calories). For healthy, young adults, that's more sodium than should be consumed in three days. For everyone else, that's basically four-and-a-half days' worth of salt in one dinner.
Lenny Russo weighed in on the subject in his Star Tribune blog, asking consumers to take more personal responsibility instead of blaming restaurateurs:
To be sure, Denny's has been grossly irresponsible when formulating the recipes for that collection of wordplays they call a menu, and the CSPI has done some valuable work in helping bring to the light of day corporate irresponsibility when it comes to food labeling, marketing and product formulation. But to assist in a class action lawsuit because someone failed to take seriously his own responsibility for his personal health seems to me to be more enabling of this type of behavior than it is assistance in helping people stop from acting like fools.
Whereas Stewart Woodman, aka Shefzilla, proposes a more extreme measure: a junk food tax.
Personally, I hope we see a tax or surcharge and warnings on junk food/fast food items in the coming years, much the same way we see with cigarettes. If you want to eat it or smoke it, that's your business, just don't charge me for your poor health.
It's estimated that the current crisis of overweight Americans costs taxpayers an extra 90 billion dollars a year as it is, so why not put an extra charge on items like soda, and warning labels on fast food. Why am I paying to subsidize someones burger fixation?
Enforcing a junk food tax sounds tricky--Russo's duck confit might have more natural ingredients than most junk food, but it probably has just as much salt and fat--but I think that the obesity epedimic has already become a national health crisis and we need to take stronger measures to make changes.