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Nutritionists Plea to KFC: Keep Double Down Away From Children

By Megan Tempest in Food on May 25, 2010 6:20PM

The Chicago Tribune's food critic, Kevin Pang, described KFC’s Double Down sandwich as, “unfathomably salty, and the exorbitant sodium levels could melt icy driveways. I'm left with sandpaper mouth for hours and I might as well have someone kick me in both kidneys with steel-tip shoes.” Our own Chuck Sudo contemplated he may have reduced his life expectancy by consuming the Double Down. Comprised of bacon, cheese and a fat-laden sauce tucked between two breaded chicken filets, it’s a meal that could harm your health in just one sitting. The original Double Down sandwich contains 540 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 1,380 milligrams of sodium. The Double Down Combo Meal has 1,000 calories, 45 grams of fat, and 2,120 milligrams of sodium.

Dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have asked KFC to refrain from advertising the Double Down sandwich to children and to warn consumers of its damaging health effects. Director of nutrition education at PCRM, Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., penned a letter to David C. Novak, the chairman of Yum! Brands, Inc., which owns KFC, in which she refers to the sandwich as a “troubling symbol of corporate irresponsibility” in light of the nation's childhood obesity epidemic. She says the fast-food chain should follow FDA restrictions against advertising tobacco and voluntarily refrain from advertising the Double Down within 500 yards of a school, at events attended by children, on transit vehicles, and outdoors, among other venues. PCRM also asks KFC to put a warning label on the sandwich that would read: “WARNING - Eating meat can contribute to obesity in children, and can increase their risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

To our dismay, the Double Down has been a hit with consumers in the U.S. The sandwich was introduced in April as a limited-time offer to end in May, but on May 19th KFC announced that it had sold nearly ten million Double Downs and therefore would continue its availability through the summer. "This is truly an example of popular demand," says KFC's executive vice president of marketing and food innovation, Javier Benito. "Millions of Double Down fans have spoken and we won't disappoint them."

Susan Levin, meanwhile, worries about the popularity of the sandwich among children. “The Double Down is clearly one of those products with a death wish appeal,” Levin says. “The Double Down combo meal has more than half the maximum amount of fat and calories that most adults should consume in an entire day—and more sodium than the American Heart Association recommends consuming in an entire day. Kids shouldn’t be exposed to such recklessness.”

Read Levin's letter to KFC here.