In a segment only fit to satisfy a regulator’s hunger pangs, CNN’s “American Morning” fed viewers one left-wing group’s most recent attack on casual dining restaurants.
“When you go to a restaurant you better be watching what you’re eating, because some of the calories you get can be extreme,” said reporter Greg Hunter to introduce the “Extreme Eating” segment February 26.
Images of syrup-laden pancakes and chicken wings being pulled out of a fryer flashed across the screen as Hunter said: “Unlike food manufacturers, restaurants aren’t required to have nutrition labels on their menus, so it’s hard to know what you’re eating.”
Hunter then began an interview with Center for Science in the Public Interest’s senior nutritionist, Jayne Hurley, who called for mandatory labeling. The CNN reporter called CSPI “a non-profit nutrition watchdog group” rather than the litigious, pro-regulation group that it is.
The report devoted a full minute and 46 seconds to CSPI, as Hunter and Hurley discussed the number of calories and fat grams in the Ruby Tuesday’s Colossal Burger, Chicken and Broccoli Pasta with cheese and cream sauce and UNO Chicago Grill’s Pizza Skins.
In comparison, Senior Vice President Richard Johnson of Ruby Tuesday was given only 10 seconds to say that the restaurant provides both low- and high-calorie options.
UNO Chicago Grill already provides customers with a computer kiosk that includes all the nutrition information, and Ruby Tuesday has a “Smart Eating” guide on the tables.
“Given the extent of our menu, we cannot conceive of how one could possibly include all of the information for each menu item that covers the legitimate needs of every guest, and believe our kiosk, unique in casual dining, offers the best way to keep our guests informed and safe,” said Frank Guidara, president and CEO of UNO Chicago Grill, in a statement to CNN.
According to the National Restaurant Association, even if menu labeling were possible, it wouldn’t really help because restaurants are all about providing choices to their customers.
“Our research indicates that 70 percent of Americans customize their food choices – which means an overwhelming majority of people aren't just simply ordering off-the-menu anymore. They are tailoring their order, and ordering exactly what they desire,” said NRA’s Steven C. Anderson  in a 2003 press release.
“Because of this ability to customize any food item, mandatory nutrition labeling in restaurants as suggested by industry critics in unworkable,” Anderson concluded.
Despite that, New York City will require nutrition labeling beginning in the fall of this year and Hurley agreed with that decision, according to Hunter’s report.
While Hunter did state that UNO Chicago Grill will be trans-fat free by the end of this year, it wasn’t enough for anchor Soledad O’Brien.
“Well, good, they should put the numbers on the menu too,” O’Brien stated emphatically.
Hunter also failed to make the connection between labeling and lawsuits. John Banzhaf of the George Washington University Law School is an attorney well-known for his war on tobacco. Banzhaf has declared “that fat is the next tobacco.”