Canada has Double Downed

It’s official, Canada has “Double Down-ed”. On October 18th, KFC unleashed its much anticipated sandwich-like product on the Canadian market. I call it “sandwich-like” because although it employs some elements of the classic sandwich, most notably food “sandwiched” between other food, it still seems like a creation of Dr. Frankenstein’s.

The Double Down is two pieces of bacon and processed – a euphemism for fake- cheese between two pieces of deep fried chicken, completed with “the colonel’s savoury secret sauce.” Mmm! Does it also come with a side order of triple by-pass?

According to the chief marketing officer of Yum! Restaurants Canada, Dan Howe, “the Down has so much 100 percent premium seasoned chicken, we didn’t have room for a bun!” Which may be a suitable tag line for KFC’s website but behind closed doors, there must be a certain amount of contempt for consumers. I’m guessing the guy to pitch the original idea of replacing the bun with deep fried chicken wasn’t thinking that KFC’s clientele were aristocrats.

Comedian Bill Maher summarized this best when the Double Down was first introduced to America last spring, “For as long as KFC insists on selling their new Double Down sandwich… they have to change their slogan from ‘we do chicken right,’ to ‘eat shit and die.’ It’s only fair.”

The advertising campaign for the Double Down in Canada features several staged testimonials of average looking men who compare eating the sandwich with going into battle. One of them says, “today is the day that I ignore the voice of reason and double down.” Here, at least, there’s still some truth in advertising.

The commercial features no women, presumably because only men could be persuaded by commercials to ingest such a monstrous creation. What’s not included in the ad is the 540 calories, 30 grams of fat and 1,740 milligrams of sodium that is packed into this greasy entrée. With roughly half a day’s recommended intake of fat and more than a day’s worth of sodium, the DD is obviously a no-no for any health conscious Canadian.

Still, if it’s not from the Double Down, Canadians must be getting their calories from somewhere. With nearly 50 percent of Canadians classified as overweight or obese and a whopping 74 percent of Americans making the switch to elastic waisted pants, there are serious consequences for unhealthy eating.

The total direct cost of obesity is estimated to be at least 1.8 billion dollars, which accounts for 2.4 percent of the total health care costs for diseases in this country. In fact, obesity and smoking are now essentially tied as the cause of the highest number of preventable deaths in North America, with obesity poised to take the lead – the only race fat people and smokers will ever be a part of. With 10 million Double Downs sold in America and an estimated 45% of Canadians wanting to try one, KFC is doing its part to help obesity win this morbid race.

I know fast food is dramatically more affordable than eating healthy.

Five dollars goes a lot further at an establishment with deep fryers than at a trendy vegan café but the money saved by a lifetime of eating at KFC is eventually paid in full by the Canadian taxpayer. At least cigarettes soften their inevitable blow to Canada’s health care system; between 63 and 79 percent of the price of cigarettes is taxes.

However, fast food restaurants currently remain immune to similar “sin taxes.”

So why is it that KFC can contribute to a leading cause of preventable deaths in North America without punishment while tobacco giant Phillip Morris can’t? Here’s why: in 1998, a settlement between Big Tobacco and 46 American states ended with tobacco companies shilling out a mind-blowing 206 billion dollars in reparation over a 25 year period.

Here in Canada, smoking has been banned in all public indoor spaces and workforces by all provinces, territories and the federal government.

Thanks to this strict government regulation and the national anti-smoking campaign of the last few decades, smoking has become taboo throughout Canada. Smokers are forced into the frigid January wind to light up while the more health conscious patrons of pubs are free to sit on their stools and pass judgement on their smoker friends through frosty windows. Yet the same rules do not apply to fast food.

Granted, you can’t inhale deadly second hand fast food but if the government feels the need to impinge upon the cigarette market, it follows that at least some government paternalism should be present within the fast food market as well. I know the labels of calories on certain fast food items may be a novel first step, but if you’re going to eat a sandwich that features deep fried chicken instead of bread, you’re probably not too concerned with the stats.

For all of you who say fast food is only harmful to the person eating it, you can tell that to the poor bastards that get stuck flying coach next to director Kevin Smith on the flights that he doesn’t get kicked off of for being “too fat to fly.” I don’t care if the armrests can still be lowered on both sides; fat is very malleable. Even if the armrests are lowered, Kevin Smith’s fat will somehow find a way to engulf them and end up touching your thigh.

To be fair to KFC, their new Double Down doesn’t even take the prize for the most unhealthy fast food item. Wendy’s Baconator features 610 calories, 35 grams of fat and 1,130 milligrams of sodium, while Burger King’s sadistically fattening Triple Whopper punishes arteries all over the globe with 1,250 calories, 84 grams of fat and 1,600 milligrams of sodium.

I’m not saying that we should forfeit the right to indulge in grease and sodium altogether or that junk food should be hidden from sight in gas stations like cigarettes. I’m just looking for a little consistency.

The number of smokers in North America has decreased dramatically and those who still indulge in the cancer sticks are now viewed as breaking a cultural taboo. This has come at the expense of numerous cigarette corporations and the tobacco farmer. Fine. It means fewer Canadians will die from cigarettes.

However, obese Canadians die from complications arising from their unhealthy habits at the same rate that smokers die from complications arising from theirs. Let’s channel at least some of the anger that fuelled the numerous lawsuits against Big Tobacco towards the other corporations that are killing just as many North Americans.

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