Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Restaurants Lie!


Ok, maybe not so shocking.

What am I talking about?

So what's the story?

ABC News in seven cities across the US set out to see if the items they purchased from the low-fat or low-calorie options in Chili's, The Cheesecake Factory, Taco Bell, On the Border, Applebee's and Macaroni Grill actually had the amount of fat and calories the restaurants' nutritional information pages said they did by sending them to an independent lab for analysis.

The results?

Some foods had twice the calories and fat that the restaurants claimed they did, and in a few rare cases some had less.

The lesson here?

When you eat out, even if you order "healthy" choices, even if the restaurant lists the calories, there's still a great chance you're getting more than you paid for.

The other lesson is for public health authorities and that is if in fact you legislate that calories be listed on menus, you'd better put in a mechanism for not only enforcement of the listing, but also validity.

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  1. That is appalling, although not very surprising...

    If one were on a strict diet for medical reasons (say diabetes) and one ate one of those falsely advertised "healthy" meals, would one be able to sue the restaurant for the ensuing ill health you would experience?

  2. Anonymous7:30 am

    Probably not - they'd hide behind the argument that energy and fat may vary and that these figures are a guide only blah, blah, blah....

    Great job Yoni!

  3. Yoni - the problem is most likely NOT with the analysis of menu items and with restaurants "lying" as you claim. Nutrient analyses are based on standardized recipes -i.e. what the recipe is SUPPOSED to be. In the majority of cases nutrient analyses are performed by either indpendent labs or calulated by third party professionals who have specialized nutrient software.

    The PROBLEM is the people making the food!! They are not following standardized recipes as they should be! I have worked in chain restaurants. I have seen the cooks want to use their "creative flair" and start throwing ingredients in here and there. There are no recipes in sight. I have seen them throw oil in a pan to sautee vegetables with absolutely no regard to the QUANTITY of oil used. And that would make a HUGE difference in the fat and calorie content...don't you think? They are not trained to disregard recipes, but they DO because food has to be made quickly or the customer gets upset.

    So you want calories on menu items but you are unwilling to recognize that it is a challenge to get all 500 cooks in all 200 locations of these frachises to make the food as they should. To follow recipes. Rather than concede that maybe it is not as easy and straightforward as you seem to think, you would rather blame "big food" and call them liars. Yes, there are standardized recipes and yes the cooks SHOULD be following them. But guess what, in the real world of restaurants where food has to be made at lightening speed, that does not always happen.

  4. That's funny Matt, because if you click through to the story and actually click their sheet of results you'll find that the Cheesecake Factory was almost bang on target with each of their items.

    Guess they must have robots working in their kitchens.

    Oh, and regarding cooking in chain restaurants - it's incredibly important for the chains that their food not have flair and panache that individualized by chefs as taste reproducibility is hugely important for their brand's success.

    So you and the food industry can make as many "human error" excuses you want - it still doesn't change the actual point of my post - you can't trust posted calorie counts in restaurants and that once legislated there'll need to be some policing and frankly if that means that restaurants will have to police their chefs to pay more attention to ingredients - I've got no problem with that whereas for some reason it appears that you do.

  5. Anonymous12:07 pm

    Taco Bell crunchy Fresco tacos are listed with even lower values here in Canada (140 calories, 7 g fat), so either the recipe is a bit different, or the lie is even bigger.

  6. Definitely something to bear in mind before visiting a restaurant.

  7. Thanks for all your research, dedication, insight and desire to improve not only your life, but other's as well.