x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pizza burger prompts warning from doctors

A 2,500-calorie burger has doctors worried that many may ignore the "made for sharing" sign on the packaging.

ABU DHABI // A 2,500-calorie burger has doctors worried that many may ignore the "made for sharing" sign on the packaging.

Burger King's pizza burger, a nine-inch bun stuffed full of six beef-burgers, pepperoni, cheese and pizza sauce, is cut into six pizza-style segments and is meant to allow "family and friends to share in the excitement of enjoying a single meal," said Yasser Abdel Azim, 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.

However, some doctors feel that 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 personal dieting service, also said she has a category of patients that 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. Burger King can take advantage of those kinds of people," she said.

The pizza burger alone contains 2,530 calories and 144g of fat - 59g of it saturated.

The Dh59 combo meal version of the pizza burger 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.

This combination suggests that three people can share a meal containing a whopping 4,027 calories and 198g of fat.

That is more than 1,300 calories per person - more than half of the recommended daily intake for an adult female.

That shared meal also packs 66g of fat per person, a hair over the recommended daily limit of 65g. 

Without even touching the fries, anyone eating one-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 - more than the daily recommended limit of 1.6g.

The pizza burger went on sale 10 days ago and will be available for a limited period in the UAE. It is also available in Oman, and exclusively at the Burger King Whopper Bar in New York's Times Square.

But doctors were appalled that it should be released anywhere - never mind in a country where two people in three are overweight. 

The promotion also coincides with the recent banning of junk food - including burgers and fries - in schools.

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

"Items that used to be actual meals are now becoming ingredients," she said. 

"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 the menus of fast food restaurants. 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.

"It is the role of the family and the parents to make sure that just because something is being promoted or advertised, it does not mean the children have to run out and try it," he said. "People have to use their common sense."

There was scant sign of that in Burger King outlets, however. 

Musa al Nuaimi bought the combo meal for his wife and two sons, aged nine and 11, to share. 

"Yes, it is a lot of food, but it is very tasty, we like it," he said.

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."

hkhalaf@thenational.ae 

The facts

2,530 calories in a Burger King pizza burger
144 grams of fat in pizza burger
65 grams of fat is the recommended daily limit
1.8 grams of salt in two slices of pizza burger and fries
1.6 grams of salt is the recommended daily limitBurger