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The Seven Worst SNAP/Food Stamp Fast-Food Purchases

A Report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Summer 2011

As American families struggle in a tough economy, registration for food stamps has hit record highs. The number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients has soared to 44 million from 26 million just four years ago. Fast-food companies seem to see this as a prime opportunity to increase sales. Arizona, Michigan, and California already allow fast-food restaurants to accept food stamps, and a major fast-food company is pushing to add Kentucky to that list.

Rates of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes are already significantly higher in low-income areas, and encouraging consumption of extremely unhealthy foods through SNAP could exacerbate this public health problem. This decision would mainly affect elderly and disabled SNAP recipients, who often suffer hypertension, heart disease, and other health problems that make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of high-cholesterol, high-fat fast food.

To help consumers understand the potential impact on public health, dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) analyzed fast-food items and identified the seven worst items that could be purchased using food stamps.

Findings

PCRM dietitians found that many fast-food items that could be purchased with food stamps are extremely high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Some are unhealthy in other respects. For example, some contain processed meats, which are linked to increased cancer risk. Here are the seven worst fast-food items that could be bought using food stamps:

Seven Worst Food Stamp Fast-Food Purchases Nutritional Shocker
McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hotcakes 575 milligrams of cholesterol, nearly twice the recommended daily limit. Excess cholesterol intake is linked to heart disease.
Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s 9” Personal PANormous Pizza 3,670 milligrams of sodium, more than double what most Americans should consume in an entire day. Contains processed meat, which has been linked to colorectal cancer.
KFC Chicken Pot Pie 42 percent of the meal’s calories come from saturated fat. Contains more saturated fat than 20 of the chain’s drumsticks.
Taco Bell Volcano Nachos Contains more fat than five Steak Nacho Cheese Gorditas.
Burger King Triple Whopper with Cheese 82 grams of fat and 32 grams of saturated fat, much more than should be consumed in an entire day.
Papa John’s The Meats—Two Slices from Extra-Large Pizza, Original Crust Nearly half of the calories come from fat.
Wendy’s Baconator Double Nearly 1,000 calories. Also contains processed meat.

Review Process

In June 2011, dietitians with PCRM analyzed nutrition content for fast-food items that could be purchased using food stamps in states that allow this method of payment for fast food.

Dietitians obtained nutrition information and information about marketing claims by reviewing company websites. They evaluated each item based on key nutritional data, including the item’s calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar. The results also reflect whether the product contains processed meats, which can increase cancer risk.

Detailed Results

McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hotcakes
With scrambled eggs, sausage, a biscuit, greasy hash browns, and pancakes and syrup, this meal contains nearly twice the recommended limit on cholesterol intake for an entire day. Excess dietary cholesterol is linked to heart disease. This meal also contains processed meat, which has been linked to increased cancer risk.

Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s 9” Personal PANormous Pizza
This pizza contains pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon, and sausage. Processed meats have been conclusively linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer. A new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research concludes that processed meats are so strongly linked to cancer that no one should ever eat them. This pizza—meant to be consumed by one person—contains 3,670 milligrams of sodium. This is more than double what most Americans should consume in an entire day. The pizza also has 80 grams of fat, including 30 grams of saturated fat.

KFC Chicken Pot Pie
KFC’s Chicken Pot Pie may seem like a healthier alternative to fried chicken, but the pot pie actually contains more saturated fat than 20 of the chain’s fried drumsticks. The small amount of peas and carrots are overwhelmed by the high-fat sauce, chicken, and crust. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 10 percent or less of one’s calories from saturated fat—but 42 percent of this meal’s calories come from saturated fat.

Taco Bell Volcano Nachos
Loaded down with two types of cheese sauce—nacho cheese and cheesy molten hot lava sauce—these nachos contain more fat than five of the chain’s Steak Nacho Cheese Gorditas. As if the pile of fried tortilla chips peeking through mounds of cheese and beef aren’t enough, the dish is topped with fried tortilla strips. Such high-fat dietary disasters can contribute to increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Burger King Triple Whopper with Cheese
This sandwich comes loaded down with three beef patties, two slices of cheese, and mayonnaise. This Whopper has a whopping 82 grams of fat, including 32 grams of saturated fat—much more than people should consume in an entire day. Make this a large value meal with fries and a soda, and the fat content shoots up to 109 grams.

Papa John’s The Meats—Two Slices from Extra-Large Pizza, Original Crust
Two slices of this Papa John’s pizza contain more sodium than most people should consume in a whole day. And many people end up eating more than two slices of pizza in one sitting. Nearly half of the calories in this pizza come from fat. This pie also contains several types of processed meats, which are tied to colorectal cancer risk.

Wendy’s Baconator Double
As if one layer of cancer-causing processed meat isn’t enough, this sandwich has two layers of bacon. It also has two layers of cheese and two beef patties. This sandwich racks up 58 grams of fat and nearly 1,000 calories.



 
 

A Proposal for Improved Healthfulness in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program



 
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