Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A canary with a dislocated beak

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Surely, it is a message for our times. Consider the nature of this little snippet from the Guardian.com: "Nicola Peate, 25, had to have her jaw put back into place by medics after it locked while she was attempting to get her teeth around a 'triple-patty' burger at a Liverpool restaurant."

The burger, served at the Almost Famous restaurant in Liverpool, was called the Kids in America burger, and in addition to three hamburger patties, it also included pretzels and candied bacon, along with cheddar, jalapeno, chipotle ketchup and pickle.

True, Peate did have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which meant her joints were unstable and easily hyperextended.

It's also true that a restaurant that also serves "trailer-trash fries," "pho-king amazing crack wings" and a hamburger that includes triple patties, triple bacon, triple cheese and pulled pork might be trying to mark turf.

But at the same time, in this land of oversized burgers and overstuffed serving sizes, there could be something of a moral to the story.

There is the old saying that you can "bite off more than you can chew."

Well, we're certainly biting off more than we can safely digest.

Sedentary lifestyles and outrageous diets are the leading contributors to a growing problem with obesity in this and many other countries. The real health effects are a crop we're only starting to harvest, with health-care planners scratching their heads about how they should prepare to deal with everything from a massive increase in diabetes to increased hip and knee replacements for old joints that simply can't bear the strain.

Contrast that with the food industry's regular trotting out of add-ons "Do you want bacon with that? Extra cheese?" and the processed food industry's deliberate increase of the amounts of fat, sugar and salt built into their products, a plan more than aptly described in Michael Moss's recent book, Salt Sugar Fat -- How the Food Giants Hooked Us.

Here's a small serving of the publisher's description of the book: "From a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the New York Times comes the troubling story of the rise of the processed-food industry -- and how it used salt, sugar and fat to addict us. Salt Sugar Fat is a journey into the highly secretive world of the processed food giants, and the story of how they have deployed these three essential ingredients, over the past five decades, to dominate the North American diet. This is an eye-opening book that demonstrates how the makers of these foods have chosen, time and again, to double down on their efforts to increase consumption and profits, gambling that consumers and regulators would never figure them out."

So, back to Nicole Peate, who is finding her Internet presence more than a little embarrassing. Think of her, in a small way, as a canary in a coal mine. A canary with a dislocated beak.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2013 A11

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