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Nutritionists Take Long, Hard Look at America's Passion for Fast Food : Industry on the Grill in Hot Controversy Over Health Issues

January 13, 1987|ALLAN PARACHINI | Times Staff Writer

- Sodium. The Wendy's triple cheeseburger was second highest, with 1,848 milligrams of salt--nearly double the 1,000 daily maximum recommended by the American Heart Assn. in newly revised dietary guidelines. Other top rankings were the Jack in the Box Jumbo Jack with cheese (1,665 milligrams) and several offerings from the otherwise virtuous Arby's. A Jack in the Box spokesman at the firm's San Diego headquarters declined to discuss details of the book or its rankings, but contended that Jacobson's observations "are unscientific and deceptive." The USDA's recommended daily allowance for sodium--somewhat more generous than the heart association recommendation--is between 1,100 and 3,300 milligrams a day.

- Sugar. Dairy Queen's large chocolate malt got the top rating, with 40 teaspoons. Dairy Queen captured the top nine positions on the list, with a sugar content ranging from 16 to 29 teaspoons. The chain's president, Harris Cooper, said he has obtained--but has not yet read--Jacobson's book. He said he was uncertain of the total sugar content in the shake in question, but said Jacobson chose a menu item that is far from the chain's top seller for the comparison.

The USDA and the heart association list no dietary recommendation for sugar, though carbohydrates common in sugar and other foods are necessary to the diet.

- Fat. Wendy's triple tied with Burger King's double beef Whopper with cheese--both of which have the equivalent of 15 teaspoons of fat. Closely following was the Burger King double beef Whopper without cheese (13 teaspoons). A second good-news listing of food items lowest in fat content included 23 items ranging from the Arby's roasted chicken breast (2 teaspoons) to the Arby's plain baked potato (none).

At the American Medical Assn., Dr. A. Harold Lubin noted that the AMA's policy-making House of Delegates several months ago officially backed greater disclosure of ingredients in fast food and efforts to cut down on fat content and to offer low-fat alternatives to some menu entries.

"We need to get the American public to understand they need to eat a variety of foods and a good total diet throughout life," Lubin said. "At one point, they (the chains) were trying to say, 'We shouldn't be selling this (items like salad bars and plain baked potatoes).'

"Now, they are joining in grading what is better and what is not as good."

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