'Value' meals no health bargain, groups say


June 19, 2002

WASHINGTON – Those supersize portions at convenience stores and fast-food outlets may look like bargains, but they cost Americans billions of dollars in obesity-related illnesses, consumer and health groups said yesterday.

Americans are being manipulated by the food industry into eating far more than they need, or even want to, said the groups, which collectively call themselves the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity.

People think they are getting bargains, but they are just getting calories, said Melanie Polk, a registered dietitian at the American Institute for Cancer Research. " 'Value marketing' is manipulation," Polk told a news conference.

The AICR, which advocates better diets to prevent cancer, teamed with the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest – the group that regularly publishes the surprising amounts of calories in foods such as pizza and Chinese takeout – for the campaign.

They want Americans to rebel against supersize and value-size food portions. "We can speak up. Say 'small', say 'half' and say 'share'," Polk said.

They recommend that people ask for half-size portions in restaurants, even if they do not get them, and to always order the smallest portion available. Eventually, they say, the food industry will get the message and stop trying to stuff food down our gullets.

The food and restaurant industries have started to strike back at such campaigns, saying it is a lack of exercise – not eating more – that is to blame.

Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.