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A Warning on 4,800-Calorie Burger? Lighten Up!

Josh Kowalczyk, an intern with the West Michigan Whitecaps, holds the massive, 4800-calorie burger. (AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press, Rex Larsen)

A Michigan minor-league baseball team's scheme to sell a big honkin' burger totaling 4,800 calories as a concession-stand promotion has drawn the ire of a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that wants the burger to come with a warning about its deleterious health effects.

The West Michigan Whitecaps' new 4-pound burger features 5 beef patties, 5 slices of cheese, nearly a cup of chili plus salsa and corn chips, all bundled into an 8-inch bun. The concoction sells for $20. Anyone who eats one by him- or herself earns a t-shirt to mark the achievement.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which promotes vegetarianism as the most healthful diet, calls the burger a "dietary disaster" and has asked the ball team to warn customers that "Eating meat is associated with increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and death."

To which I say: Give me a break.

I've got to think that PCRM has got bigger fish to fry. Nor do I believe anyone who's likely to lust after that insanely huge hamburger (or the t-shirt) will be deterred by a warning that it might be bad for their heart, cause cancer or make them fat.

Of course nobody's suggesting that monster burgers become a dietary mainstay. But this is clearly a prank, a silly attention-getting device. To suggest that it's likely to encourage widespread overindulgence in hypercaloric ground beef sandwiches is, I think, disingenuous. Seems health advocacy groups, like minor-league ball teams, sometimes need a bit of publicity.

I don't want to eat a big burger myself. But I defend other people's right to cram one in their face if they so choose.

Just don't throw up on my feet.

What do you think? Vote here and comment freely, below.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 3, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Does Baby Fat Lead to Obesity?
Next: Too Much TV? Feed 'em Donuts.


It's not about the right to eat what you want, which is an obvious straw man. The issue is these types of influences and how irresponsible team management is to do this. A more widespread example is those many major league ballparks that now have "all-you-can-eat" sections which encourage fans (including kids) to gorge themselves on hot dogs, chips and soda.

Yes, we all can make choices, and parents are responsible for their children, etc. But when the consistent message that kids (and others) hear is that it's OK, even fun, to overeat, there is a real harm to that. All of us - particularly including those who control entertainment venues that serve food to kids - need to take responsibility to send more appropriate messages about healthy eating. It's not all fun and games.

Posted by: mcarroll2 | April 3, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Where's the voting option of "the PCRM should take their veggies and leave me alone?" PCRM has all of no physicians (or 1...I forget) and is all but a schill for PETA and animal liberation groups. They have YET to tackle an urgent issue...ever.

Posted by: byte1 | April 3, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Love the PCRM and recommend their books, but they're obviously just trying to get their name in the news. Nobody looks at that burger and thinks it will be good for their health.

Posted by: sarahabc | April 3, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I used to go to an event after work where they had this huge bagel. It had all the goodies on it and was cut up into little cocktail sized portions.

When I first read about this I thought maybe it would do for that kind of a food. You'd buy the giant burger and then slice and dice it up among your friends.

Alas, that's hard to do at a ball park and the bun is too small for everybody to get something they can hold in their hand. With all that stuff on it you probably have to eat it with a fork anyway, so sharing might not be out of the question. It does sound tasty with the chili, cheese, corn chips and burger.

Posted by: RedBird27 | April 3, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Would it be OK for Budweiser to sponsor 96 oz beers? Maybe Marlboro can make a cigarette with 10 times the nicotine. Why not NASCAR without seatbelts?

Why not a promotion to take batting practice without a helmet?

I think the Whitecaps are on to something.

Posted by: ougrad75 | April 4, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

“Aw, lighten up!” We hear this adolescent phrase from people who want to rid the world of reminders about health risks. But given the growing prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and other health problems, the “anything goes” mentality is dangerous, especially for children. It needs to be challenged, and doctors and everyone else need to speak out.

Posted by: Gergen | April 4, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Hi, RedBird27: Apparently the ballpark makes a pizza cutter available to those who want to share their big burgers, which I imagine most people buying the big burgers avail themselves of.
Thanks for raising the point.

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | April 4, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the interesting post. Having just come back from Michigan, where half my family lives, I think one thing is really clear: The monster burger is the last thing Michiganders need. The state, like a lot of places in this country, has a serious problem with obesity. And it's hitting us in the wallet as well as the arteries. I just read that American car companies spend about three times as much on health care costs for their employees as car companies in other countries. That's one reason why GM and the others are on the ropes. Part of it is our health care system, but a huge contributing factor is that Americans have such high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. We are one of the fattest countries in the world, and our eating habits are killing us. They are also driving us into the poor house. If putting a warning label on the monster burger helps wake people up to that fact, I'm all for it.

Posted by: benrboardman | April 4, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

byte1, the PCRM is a group of over 5,000 physicians as well as tens of thousands of other supporters.

People often wrongly assume that if something were truly harmful, it wouldn't be legally available. ABC News recently exposed the widespread problem of "Mountain Dew mouth" in Appalachia.

There is an obesity epidemic in this country because restaurants and junk food pushers hire front groups like the misnamed "Center for Consumer Freedom," which, believe it or not, has a website called "" Their "director of research" is an obese cigar smoker who does not have a science degree, yet he's constantly bashing the PCRM's 5,000 physicians as a "phony" physicians group. I'd like to know exactly how many physicians or scientists are in his group. Or for that matter, how many consumers?

Posted by: mayamaya | April 5, 2009 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Seems to me that both the baseball team and that leftie group got what they wanted out of this: free publicity.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | April 5, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Obviously the burger is a prank - a prank designed to make the ball park money. So what's the problem with PCRM taking advantage of it to promote their own message. You're just irritated that PCRM one-upped their capitalism for a good cause. You're the one that should get over it!

Posted by: Humaneks | April 5, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Is there anyone who can't figure out that eating a five-patty cheeseburger is fattening? Most would even suspect that one fifth of a five-patty cheeseburger might not be all that great for you. The problem is, do they care?

Posted by: magicdomino | April 6, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, if you don't know that a 4 lb burger is bad for you, or that the same burger which consists of "5 beef patties, 5 slices of cheese, nearly a cup of chili plus salsa and corn chips" is bad for you, then it's a Darwin Award if it clogs your arteries.

This is not the 1950's and the tobacco companies are trying to tell you how smoking is good for you, and mass media isn't pervasive enough to counteract that message. This is the 21st century, and we all know that too much greasy food isn't good for our health.

I would rather see the PRCM (or any other consumer advocacy group) campaign for things like the over prescription of antibiotics, or more widely promote the incredibly insane salary of insurance company executives combined with the 78% rise in premiums over the past 8 years to explain why health care costs are rising.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 6, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

You diet your entire life. Everyone knows how many calories and fat are in it. Instead of a[n] (obvious) warning, they're better off putting the nutrition facts on it. Anyone that is smart knows that burgers aren't all together too healthy to begin with.

The warning is over the top. People who want the warning are those who wouldn't want to eat the burger in the first place so there's no point.

Eat what you want. And what's healthy is common knowledge.


Posted by: RandomLifeGirl | April 6, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

A warning? Really? Do we need warnings on steakhouse menus for the 48 oz cut? What about 20 oz? Do we draw the line at the 4 oz cut, a single serving? Oh, wait, no steakhouse sells a cut that small . . .

Maybe instead of a warning we should require all purchasers to sign a waiver that should they ever have heart disease or any condition compounded by obesity that their MediCare coverage will be denied. Maybe we should sell one with each Happy Meal, too. And let's not forget pasta Alfredo at the Olive Garden or cheese and vegetable pizzas.

If you think the warning is a good idea, where do you draw the line?

I think WashingtonDame got it right - everybody got publicity which is what they were after.

Posted by: esleigh | April 6, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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