Friday, September 16, 2005

Today's health stars: Fast-food chains

Did we hear that right? A public conference on obesity, convened by a politician known to grandstand for headlines, saluting restaurant chains for their contributions to health? Did we mention it was California? No fewer than four major grab-and-go brands were saluted by fitness star (and state governor) Arnold Schwarzenegger for their part in helping the Left Coast slim down. The four--McDonald's, El Pollo Loco, Subway and 7-11--and two industry suppliers--Dole and Kraft--were among the 26 companies included on the Governor's Summit Honor Roll, which was revealed at The Terminator's Get Healthy California conference today.

The governor's office noted that 7-11, a concept once known for roller dogs and garbage-can-sized Slurpees, is rolling out a new line of reduced-calorie and -fat sandwiches and wraps, which will be sold under the name Pick Smart. Subway is also adding a health-oriented array, called Fit meals. Each consists of a sub sandwich, low-fat milk, and either apple or raisins in lieu of chips.

At an uncounted number of past conferences on obesity, the audience often used the industry as a pinata of sorts, blaming fast-food in particular for America's weight problem. Of course it is a little disconcerting that among the health authorities invited to speak by Schwartzenegger, an entertainer by trade, were Dr. Phil and Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical reporter. In what might have contributed to a very interesting green room, they shared the bill with organic-produce activist and renowned chef Alice Waters.

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