The arrival of KFC’s 540-calorie Double Down sandwich caught the attention of the Ontario government Tuesday, which first said it may review the sale of the sodium-laden, breadless concoction, but then quickly backtracked.
Just what a province could do about a food product that’s considered perfectly legal — even if indisputably unhealthy — was unclear. But Liberals weren’t saying why Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best had two positions on the Double Down in as many hours.
Best was responding to recommendations the province ban smoking in apartment buildings — an idea she rejected — when she was asked about the Double Down, and said it was something the government could investigate.
“It’s not something that we have discussed but it’s certainly something we may look at and review,” Best told reporters.
However, her office later issued a statement in which Best claimed to “reiterate” that there were no plans to review the availability of any food products in Ontario.
“Consumers have the right to choose the food they wish to purchase,” said the updated statement from Best’s office.
The Opposition said it fully expected Premier Dalton McGuinty — whom they’ve dubbed Premier Dad for what the Tories say are frequent attempts at social engineering — to quickly ban the sale of the Double Down.
“You know that Premier Dad is going to be tempted to do that (ban the sandwich),” said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
“I mean Dalton McGuinty has shown a very bizarre obsession with micro-managing our daily lives, from the kind of dog we can own to the kind of snacks our kids can take to school, so maybe he’s going to go after KFC next.”
Unhealthy or not, the fit-and-trim Hudak said he was looking forward to trying a Double Down, and wasn’t worried about what it could do to his health.
“I’ll go for a jog afterwards,” he quipped.
The New Democrats said rather than trying to ban unhealthy food products, the government should adopt their bill calling for proper labelling of foods sold in restaurants to list calories, sodium and fat.
Health experts and nutritionists expressed concerns this week when KFC started selling the Double Down — two slabs of seasoned fried chicken sandwiching bacon, cheese and secret sauce — in Canada.
The sandwich has 30 grams of fat and 1,740 milligrams of sodium — about half a day’s recommended fat content and more than the average adult’s daily salt intake should be.
The Dieticians of Canada said excessive sodium intake over the long term contributes to high blood pressure, which in turn is considered a major risk factor for stroke and cardiovascular disease.
KFC said the Double Down, which went on sale across Canada on Monday, will only be available for a month to see how consumers respond.
Trevor Norris, a consumer specialist at the University of Toronto, says it’s time governments protected people from corporations who create major burdens on society, such as future health care costs, from grossly unhealthy fast food products.
The Double Down, which debuted in the United States last year, isn’t the only high salt, high fat fast food fare on offer these days. There’s also the 610-calorie Wendy’s Baconator and the 1,250-calorie Triple Whopper at Burger King.