With an ocean of bad food out there, a consumer watchdog has named Long John Silver's "Big Catch" the "worst restaurant meal in America" because it contains a whale of fat and salt.
Testing by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found two weeks worth of transfat -- 33 grams -- in one meal of the deep-fried Haddock fillet with onion rings and hushpuppies. The American Heart Association recommends just two grams of transfat daily.
The CSPI said that transfat is "the most powerful promoter of heart disease in the food supply" and that all of it in the Big Catch comes from partially hydrogenated frying oil. The watchdog noted that there's less transfat in meals in California, where regulations limit it to a half gram per serving. These franchises fry in canola oil.
The Big Catch also contains 19 grams of saturated fat, almost 3,700 milligrams of sodium and 1,320 calories, the CSPI reported.
The watchdog said Lohn John Silver's also "greatly overstates the amount of actual fish in the Big Catch meal, and greatly understates the amounts of trans fat and sodium in the side orders."
The company advertises the fillet as "a wild-caught whitefish three times the size in weight of our normal uncooked whitefish." It says the fish weighs 7 to 8 ounces, and compares it with "one piece Alaskan Pollock by weight."
That's a fish tale, said Michael Jacobson, the group's executive director."
"It's more like 60% haddock, and 40% batter and grease," he said, adding, "that's just plain piracy."
Long John Silver's defended its menu offerings.
It called the Big Catch "a limited time only special that delivers tremendous value to value hungry consumers" and "can be paired with a variety of side items including corn, green beans, rice, cole slaw, fries, onion rings and hushpuppies."
Long John Silver's also said the company "offers a variety of meal choices including baked fish and shrimp that can satisfy almost every diner's dietary choices."
The CSPI said it had notified the Food and Drug Administration of its findings and would sue the chain over its use of partially hydrogenated oil and for its portion and nutritional claims.
"We stand behind our published food data and will review any requests from CSPI that raise questions about our data," the company said in a statement.
The promotion began May 27 and is scheduled to run through July "or while supplies last."
Michael Winter, USA TODAY