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Fast food: Usually that means fat food

ERNEST HOOPER
Published November 21, 2003

There is a new acronym in the world of fast food. KFC once stood for Kentucky Fried Chicken, but now it stands Kan't get Fat on Chicken.

Or at least that's what the restaurant chain wants you to believe. And yes, they do spell can't with a "K" in Kentucky.

In a series of recent KFC television commercials, the company has implied its products could help consumers eat healthfully and lose weight. I hope people aren't biting into this idea.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the commercials, and with good reason. In one commercial, a woman arrives home, proclaims to her male companion they're going to eat better and pulls out a bucket of KFC.

What's next? A commercial foolishly proclaiming beer can improve a guy's chances of meeting a woman?

Uh, never mind.

After seeing the KFC ad, I immediately came up with a cost-cutting measure for NBC. Instead of paying Saturday Night Live actors to produce a skit on this laughable claim, they could simply run the original KFC commercial.

No one would notice the difference.

Weight Watchers International preaches moderation and balance, and labels no food as bad. But Lisa Craig, Weight Watchers' public relations manager for the southeastern United States, helped quantify how a KFC breast, which is 9 points on the Weight Watchers scale, would fit into the company's dieting approach.

"I'm 5-10 and I weigh, well I weigh a certain amount, I'm not going to tell you how much," Craig said. "I'm at 23 points a day, and I do have what we call flex points during the week."

Of course, Weight Watchers plans vary, but clearly, Craig would use nearly half her points on one piece. And who eats one piece? She noted half a turkey sandwich on multigrain bread with a cup of soup would measure only about 6 points.

If you ask me, I think KFC's claim its chicken could be part of a healthy diet actually could hurt sales. I don't go there wanting healthy stuff, I go wanting fried chicken. If it's actually good for me, I might just pass. That's the same reason I avoid Nature's Harvest.

The most amazing thing is there are people who might actually believe believe fried chicken is healthy. People, we're talking about fried chicken, the poster child for cholesterol.

After all, there is a reason they shortened the name to KFC.

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Don't get me wrong. Fast food has a place because, well, it's fast. Most of the time. It's a convenience we should take advantage of in moderation. Yet I get the feeling the ongoing chorus of fast food critics would just as soon rid the world of McDonald's and Burger King.

One of the latest protests has come from a Ralph Nader group that wants PBS to pull McDonald's corporate sponsorship messages before and after its broadcasts of Sesame Street because of concerns about childhood obesity.

I only hope the protesters are calling for people to donate more money to PBS while they call for McDonald's to pull its ad.

PBS has turned to corporations because it is not getting enough donations from the general public. While the sponsorship messages can create brand identity, PBS' strict guidelines don't allow the messages to display products, announce promotions or contain any call to action.

As the father of three, I'm as concerned as anyone about childhood obesity. It would be unfair, however, to lay all the blame at the doorstep of McDonald's or other fast food chains, even KFC.

The growing epidemic has as much to do with lifestyle changes as it does the high-caloric food being served at McDonald's. Combatting the problems of childhood obesity requires awareness, an increased emphasis on exercise, healthier options from schools and more discipline from parents.

And I include myself in that last group.

* * *

That's all I'm saying.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com

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