x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Is it a burger? Is it a pizza? However you slice it, it's big

The Burger King pizza burger: clever fusion, or coronary time bomb? Either way, doctors are concerned about its health implications.

Fun for the whole family: the Pizza Burger is conveniently divided into six slices.
Fun for the whole family: the Pizza Burger is conveniently divided into six slices.
A 2,500-calorie burger has doctors worried that many may ignore the "made for sharing" sign on the packaging. "Items that used to be actual meals," observed the dietitian Leila Goharian, "are now becoming ingredients." 

The object of concern is Burger King's Pizza Burger, a 22-centimetre bun stuffed full of six beef-burgers, pepperoni, cheese and pizza sauce, cut into six pizza-style slices.

It is meant to allow "family and friends to share in the excitement of enjoying a single meal", said Yasser Abdel Azim, the general manager of First Food Services, which operates Burger King outlets in the UAE. 

"The limited-time-offer Pizza Burger is designed to be shared - as clearly communicated in our advertisements - and is sliced into six pieces before it is served," he said. Some doctors believe the Pizza Burger could be easily consumed by a single person.

Dr Qazi Ahmed, a family doctor in Abu Dhabi, said the mere existence of such an item was "frightening", and he "shudders to think" of those people who will choose to eat the entire thing. 

"This is a slow death, this kind of food," he said. "This is almost double the amount of calories needed by an adult for the entire day." 

Hala abu Taha, a nutritionist at Right Bite, a nutrition, catering and dieting service, also said she has patients who would not hesitate to eat the Pizza Burger in its entirety.

"They won't even realise they are doing it. They will take one more bite until they eat the entire thing. 

Burger King can take advantage of those kinds of people," she said. The Pizza Burger crams in 2,530 calories and 144g of fat - 59g of it saturated. The Dh59 combo meal version comes with three medium servings of fries, at 360 calories and 18g of fat per serving, and three 330ml cans of Coke, at 139 calories per can.

That combination suggests that three people can share a meal containing a whopping 4,027 calories and 198g of fat. And at more than 1,300 calories per person, it is more than half of the recommended daily intake for an adult woman. That shared meal also packs 66g of fat per person, just over the recommended daily limit of 65g.  

Without even touching the fries, anyone eating a third of the burger would be consuming their daily limit of saturated fat in one hit. It is no less laden with salt. A third of a burger and large fries contain almost 1.8g of salt - exceeding the daily recommended limit of 1.6g.

The Pizza Burger is also available in Oman and at the Burger King Whopper Bar in Times Square in New York. 

Doctors were appalled it would be available anywhere - but particularly in a country where two people in three are overweight.  

Even split into three, the huge portions are cause for concern, according to Ms Goharian, a registered dietitian at the General Health Centre in Dubai and a Right Bite nutritionist.

"Burger King marketing is showing that the pizza is just an ingredient added to the burger, instead of both being meals on their own. 

"At least it is being marketed as something to be shared, but it is still doubling the amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat and so on needed in one meal." 

Food authorities said they were powerless to suggest amendments to restaurant menus. Mohamed al Reyaysa, the communications director at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, said there was little his department could do beyond making sure the burgers were prepared and served properly, with fresh ingredients.

At the Burger King in Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi, Ahmed al Qutaimi, 27, said staff had asked him if others would be "enjoying the meal" with him when he bought his first pizza burger last week. 

"I was told in a polite way that this is not just for one person and that they hope my friends will be eating with me," he said. 

"I replied that of course I am going to share it - it is too much for one person to eat."