New Report Finds Secret Menus’ Lack of Nutrition Information a Public Health Threat
WASHINGTON—Secret menus at McDonald’s, Chipotle, and other restaurants are the latest dangerous fast-food tactic used to deceive customers. Restaurants, in an attempt to sidestep the federal health care bill requiring calorie labels, are putting meals with the most fat, meat, and cheese on these hidden, unregulated menus, leaving customers playing Russian roulette with their health, according to a new report from the Physicians Committee.
Some secret menu items are created by fast-food companies and posted on their websites, such as those at Panera and In-N-Out Burger. Others are created by customers and unofficially circulated via word of mouth, such as the Monster Mac at McDonald’s. Either way, calorie counts for these items do not have to be posted in restaurants because they are technically off-menu.
“The Monster Mac at McDonald’s or Burger King’s Suicide Burger should not get a get-out-of-jail-free card,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “Nutrition information protects consumers and helps them make educated choices. It would be a lot harder for a conscious consumer to purchase a Monster Mac if a whopping 1,390 calories was listed alongside it. Restaurants using this secret menu loophole are deceptive and deadly.”
Based on the ingredients described in recently revealed fast-food secret menu items, dietitians collected data from restaurant websites and other sources to conduct a nutritional analysis. The report highlights McDonald’s Monster Mac as the worst offender with 1,390 calories, 2,920 milligrams of sodium, and 92 grams of fat in the eight-burger sandwich. Multiply the staggering fat, cholesterol, and sodium of a single Big Mac by about eight to approximate McDonald’s secret Monster Mac.
A study published last year in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that damage to arteries occurs almost immediately after one junk-food meal. Study participants consumed just one meal with 15 grams of saturated fat. Chipotle’s Quesarito has nearly double that amount from its cheese and sour cream. Dairy products are the No. 1 source of saturated fat in the U.S. diet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“Customers might think that a name like a Suicide Burger is a joke—most consumers would not think that Burger King was actually trying to kill them. Fast-food restaurants found serving unregulated secret menu items like these should be fined like they would for any other violation that imperils customer health,” Levin suggests.
But the good news: “Next time you are at Chipotle, order a black bean fajita salad sans cheese and sour cream and you can still enjoy a side of guacamole without maxing out on the daily recommended intake of sodium and saturated fat,” Levin adds.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.