Australia’s deadliest fast food meals revealed

Fast food is contributing to the expanding waistlines and declining wellbeing of individuals worldwide. While indulging occasionally is okay, studies have consistently shown that regular consumption of fast food can have dire consequences for your overall health.

Research from The George Institute for Global Health has found that several of Australia’s beloved fast food chains are serving meals that contain nearly an entire day’s worth of energy requirements. 

According to the FoodSwitch: State of the Fast Food Supply report, Red Rooster’s Bacon and Cheese Rippa roll with large chips and a 600ml Coke boasts an incredible 6800 kilojoules per serving. This is just under 80 per cent of the recommended average adult daily energy intake.

This meal also contains more than 2000 milligrams of sodium. The recommended amount of sodium for Australian adults is 2000 milligrams per day (five grams of salt or one teaspoon).

The roll alone contains 3630 kilojoules. It costs $9.95 and is made up of two chicken strips, two slices of bacon, cheese, mayonnaise and barbecue sauce in a crunchy white roll. And while it may sound extravagant, there are other burgers and rolls with even more kilojoules out there.

During the time of the research (2021), Hungry Jacks Double Smoky BBQ Angus was found to have the most energy in the burger category with two beef patties, two cheese slices, bacon, mayonnaise and fried onions contributing to its 5610 kilojoules. But upon further research, Hungry Jacks now offer a Grill Masters Double Cowboy Angus which contains 5860 kilojoules.

“Previous research has shown the majority of chains don’t publicly identify nutrition and health as a focus area, but Red Rooster and Hungry Jacks show some particularly bad habits,” said Dr Alexandra Jones, public health lawyer and research fellow at The George Institute.

“Red Rooster, for example, offers many meal combinations as a ‘large’ size by default, which adds huge amounts of needless sugar in soft drinks and extra fat in fries on the side.

“Meanwhile, Hungry Jacks ‘Hunger Tamer’ package deals feature multiple burgers, chicken nuggets, chips and a drink for one person. These deals may be cheap, but the way they’re marketed and sold is making us sick.”

According to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia has some of the highest obesity rates in the world. 

Based on the latest available data, of Australian adults aged 18 and over:

  • two in three (67 per cent) are living with overweight or obesity. This is approximately 12.5 million adults.
  • 36 per cent are living with overweight but not obesity.
  • 31 per cent are living with obesity.
  • 12 per cent are living with severe obesity, which is defined in this report as having a BMI of 35 or more.

The George Institute analysis included 4702 menu items across 27 chains such as McDonald’s, Grill’d and Oporto. Out of the 144 combo meals analysed, 60 exceeded the suggested dietary target for sodium. Of these, 23 were from Red Rooster and 18 from Hungry Jacks.

“High salt intakes are closely linked to high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke,” said Dr Jones.

According to Red Rooster chief executive Clint Ault, the company aims to offer choice to consumers. “Our menu is diverse, offering healthier [choices] through to the more indulgent items,” he said.

“The Bacon and Cheese Rippa meal is actually not one of our biggest selling items on the menu and accounts for just over 1 per cent of total sales. There are many meals on our menu that are actually under a third of the daily kilojoule intake.”

A Hungry Jacks spokesperson said the fast-food chain was “building on its position as an industry innovator” by introducing low-carbohydrate burgers, fresh chicken salads and wraps, and a plant-based Whopper.

“Hungry Jacks is also trialling low-sodium chicken nuggets, with a view to a national launch later in the year,” said the spokesperson.

Dr Jones acknowledged Hungry Jacks was trying to incorporate healthier options into some parts of its menu but said “you also have to wonder how much use a low-carb bun is when it’s part of something called a ‘Tendercrisp Cheesy Bacon’ burger”.

Plant-based burgers (which often contain a high amount of carbohydrates) were found to have the highest average energy content per serving in the entire burger category at 3097 kilojoules per item.

“Our research highlights that most products made by the major chains are unhealthy, sold in oversize servings and packed full of cheap and harmful ingredients. This is not great news for Australia’s health.”

How often do you eat fast food? Were you aware of how many calories these fast food meals contain? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: What’s really in your fast food?

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