Should The Monster Burger Be Banned?

July 24th, 2009 by Bob Bly

My friend DH, a retired copywriter, once said he would take on any product except those that are illegal, immoral, or fattening.

A new hamburger now being sold at the stadium of a minor-league baseball team — the West Michigan Whitecaps — surely falls into the third category … and maybe even the second.

The burger, which weighs 4 pounds and costs $20, contains 5 beef patties, 5 slices of American Cheese, extra nacho cheese, nearly a cup of chili, salsa, sour cream, and corn chips on an 8-inch bun. It has 4,800 calories — as many as 9 Big Macs.

Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), wrote a letter to the Whitecaps asking them to put a WARNING label on the burger stating that eating red meat increases risk of heart disease, and asked that they not sell the burger to minors.

While the burger is arguably both disgusting and unhealthy, lots of restaurants, fast food stands, and stores sell foods that are unhealthy and (to many people) disgusting.

But don’t consumers have the right to decide what they want to eat? I can go to any ball park, and if I want to pig out, buy half a dozen burgers or dogs at any snack window — and no one will question me.

Do you admire PCRM and Levin for their latest attempt to protect the public’s health?

Or shouldn’t the Whitecaps and their customers be free to buy and sell whatever foods they desire?

And: are there any particular product categories that you refuse to market because you don’t approve of them?

(For me, I once turned down a publisher who needed direct mail packages to sell books on hunting — not because I think hunting should be banned, but because I find it repugnant and do not want to encourage it in any way.)

Source: Good Medicine, Summer 2009, p. 13.

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47 responses about “Should The Monster Burger Be Banned?”

  1. Brett Owens said:

    I say let them pig out. Laissez faire baby. If you need a label on four plus pounds of meat and cheese to indicate your impending meal may be unhealthy, odds are you’ve got bigger issues anyway.

    Two days ago I got pulled over, and my backseat passenger was given a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt – CA’s misguided Click It or Ticket campaign. What a racket and waste of effort on everyone’s part – what ever happened to free will and responsibility for one’s own self?

  2. Should The Monster Burger Be Banned? | health said:

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  3. Cambridge Kitchener Copywriter said:

    Yes. The monster burger should be banned for the reasons you outlined Bob. It’ll never happen, but it should.

    I too think hunting is murderous amusement and repugnant.

    You are a recognizable name in Copywriting, one of the best, but after this article I like you even more :)

    Thanks for your website. It’s an excellent resource for writers.

  4. Brian said:

    Interesting. Sort of a microcosm of the debate that is going on right now in this supposedly free country.

    I say let it be. You can’t protect people from themselves. You make some druge illegal, they’ll still find ways to get those drugs or they’ll start huffing office supplies.

    And the warning label thing is becoming laughable. We’ve got warning labels all over everything and can anyone say they’ve noticed any kind of decline is stupid, potentially self-harming behavior? Plus it gives rise to gigantic lawsuits whenever someone is harmed using something that didn’t have a warning label.

    If PCRM thinks people need to be warned / educated, then they should feel free to go ahead and warn / educate them.

  5. Bob Bly said:

    Brian: My favorite is the warning label on couches and mattresses from my childhood, on which the entire warning read: REMOVE THIS LABEL UNDER PENALTY OF LAW.

  6. Ken said:

    I do admire them for attempting to protect the public’s health, but I’m not sure banning foods is going to do any good. Like you said, anyone can go to the counter and order as many hamburgers as they want and no one will say a word.

    Here in Toronto they have an “all you can eat” section at Blue Jays games a handful of times per season. That’s certainly not healthy, but it sells out each time.

    We also have huge warning labels with grotesque pictures of diseased lungs and such on cigarette packs here in Canada, but people still smoke. Trying to force people to do anything just never seems to work.

    As for the second question…I don’t think I would ever promote guns in any form, or any pharmaceutical products, or cigarettes or alcohol.

  7. Gary said:

    Well, I admired their attempt to protect the overall welfare of the public. However, does it makes sense if this banning issue will be approved by authorities? In the end, customers still have the last say for this issue. It’s up to them if they want to eat unhealthy foods like this monster burger.

  8. Val Greenwood said:

    We do not need laws and food police to control our lives or to make sure people make the right decisions. People who want to do foolish things should not be controlled by the government (at any level). Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

    It seems as if our politicians are becoming obsessed with what we can or cannot do–in an effort to protect us from ourselves. But it is not the job of government to control our lives.

    One thing I see happening is that government is latching on to these “bad” things as a source of revenue. They put a tax on it. But this looks to be self-defeating. If the desired result is achieved and people stop consuming the offending commodity, then the source of revenue is lost. Thus the government must secretly (or overtly) hope that people will not stop using the offending product, but that more people will use it to increase the revenue bounty.

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  10. Phil Wrzesinski said:

    I forget? Do we live in a free society anymore?

    When did personal responsibility no longer become personal but the realm of the government?

    Unless the eating of a monster burger negatively affects the surrounding people (like second-hand smoke), an individual has the right to eat whatever he or she wants.

    (Oops, by that standard maybe it should be banned as it may cause repulsive vomiting by all in the vicinity.)

    Ban the stuff that harms others, but leave personal responsibility with the person.

  11. S.P. Gass said:

    The monster burger does sound excessive, but I do not think it should be banned for the same reasons as mentioned by other readers.

    Even though I’ve never personally hunted, I do not find it repugnant at all. Here in Virginia, there is a group called Hunters for the Hungry that does a lot of good work providing venison to food banks. More info if interested at: http://www.h4hungry.org/facts4u.htm

  12. Jeff said:

    As has been pointed out already, people smoke, drink excessively, do other “recreational” (illegal) drugs, over-eat, fail to wear seat belts, drop hot coffee in their lap and sue McDonalds …

    Wait, I digress. This experiment called the U.S. depended on people not just being free, but also being smart, or enlightened, or at least not wantonly self-destructive.

    Why exactly is there an obesity epidemic now? Or a “child obesity epidemic,” at least?

    Why are we raising citizens who need to be protected from themselves?

    I believe people have the “right” to do a large number of potentially unhealthy things, but am appalled at so many who do, and with seeming lack of personal accountability, in a society with so many people ready to create new rules for their own good.

    It is called a “nanny state,” and sadly the arguments are almost compelling to create one, though anyone with knowledge of the premise behind the U.S. would tell you it need not be so.

  13. Bob Bly said:

    SP: Maybe we should start a web site to sell all the deer meat online — MerchantofVenison.com….. :)

  14. Lou Wasser said:

    There is not a product you can name that can’t or hasn’t hurt someone. And there isn’t a company you can name without a legal department on board, or at least outside counsel, to deal with complaints and law suits.

    Think Mercedes makes the best cars? Someone,somewhere has sued the company (and successfully) for faulty manufacturing standards that caused injury. Do you simply love your Bally shoes? I’ll bet you your inner soles that at least one person has collected money from Bally in a law suit, and even brought to court compelling evidence from their orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist which tipped the judge and jury in their favor.

    You name it; it can be harmful. I worked for an investment house where, before we took the client to trading, we made him say on a recorded phone message that he was fully aware he could lose his shirt by going ahead with the trade.

    Let none of us in the direct marketing business delude ourselves that the products we promote are so pristine and beneficial that they remain forever free of moral or legal entanglement.

    If Marie Antoinette still had her head about her, she’d be hauled into court by any number of heart attack victims for imploring them to eat cake.

  15. Shel Horowitz said:

    Bob, I’m thrilled to see that you turned down the hunting assignment. I’ve also turned down assignments that didn’t measure up to my personal values and standards of honesty, integrity, and quality. I even have a section in my book Principled Profit called “When to Say No to a Sale.”

    Recently, I blogged about a business owner who was sued for turning down an assignment she disagreed with. For me, it would not have been a values conflict to accept the assignment, but her values are different than mine. The state Human Rights Commission fined her! I blogged that I thought the HRC was totally wrong: http://principledprofit.com/good-business-blog/is-it-right-to-force-business-owners-to-violate-their-beliefs/2009/05/08/

  16. Scott Sanders said:

    I agree with Brett (#1), if people need a warning on something like that then they shouldn’t even be allowed out in public.

    Life is all about choices and what right does anybody have to limit that choice? I’m not talking about breaking the law to make the choice you want but when it comes to eating we all have the choice to eat what we want and it should stay that way.

    Having said that who would be able to eat that all in one sitting anyway? Sounds like a meal for a week! lol

  17. Hollister Creative said:

    I hate to jump on the band wagon, but I’m with both Brett & Scott.

    Whatever happened to taking personal responsibility for one’s actions?

    I understand that one can make the argument that by eating, drinking & smoking products that are bad for us, the public cost for health care rises. But, if we look closely we’ll find that everything is killing us all!

    Just thinking about that burger makes me feel ill…

  18. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    Just as important as personal responsibility in people’s choices is the fact that they have choices. One must assume there are other choices on the ball park menu besides this 4-pound, 5-patty monster and that no one is forced or required to buy and eat it.

    Is it a disgusting menu item? I think so. But others may disagree.

    Should it have a warning label? I don’t think so. And so, no, I don’t admire PCRM and Levin for their latest attempt to protect the public’s health.

    Frankly, I’d expect the market to take care of this one. If too few people buy the 4-pound burger, it will be gone.

    Finally, isn’t it possible that — like a large pizza or a 6-foot sub — this thing is actually meant to be shared?

  19. Bob Bly said:

    Ken: my assistant also suggested to me that it the monster burger could be shared. But pizza comes in slices and subs can be sliced into sections. Sharing a burger, especially sitting in a ball park without benefits of a plate and silverware, would be messy and difficult, though not impossible.

  20. Scott Sanders said:

    I guess the ballpark could have a bring your own plate and knife day… then again the latter could cause even more problems than the monster burger! lol

  21. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    It’s called a “Fifth Third Ballpark Burger,” is served on a 12-inch pizza tray, can be cut into 4 pieces for a family of four (though 5 would certainly make more sense), and has the tag line: Share it with your family or dare to go it alone.

    See one being made here:

    http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/03/whitecaps_fifth_third_burger_n.html

    Seeing it convinces me the critics are off-base and they need one of the good doctors at the PCRM to prescribe them a healthy dose of reality.

  22. Dennis Kalian said:

    Bob, The monster burger should be banned!! Unless we want to continue to pay 20% more every year for our health insurance!!

    We can call it preventative maintenance!

    Dennis

  23. Hesster said:

    I agree that this monster burger shouldn’t be illegal. Costco sells 18 packs of frozen burger patties, as well as giant hamburger buns and giant containers of any condiment you could think of adding to a burger. Someone could go out and buy a package of each and have their own monster burger at home, and no one would bat an eye.

    Personally, I think it sounds disgusting, though.

  24. Phil dunn said:

    Nanny state.

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  26. zam said:

    Sure, let’s ban that burger. And while we’re at it, let’s ban EVERY “all you can eat” place, they serve a lot more than 4800 calories for less than the advertised price of the “Monster Burger”. And why stop there? Let’s also put a limit on the amount of calories ANYONE can order for one meal at ANY restaurant. And let’s ban saturated fat too, just to be consistent. Better yet, let’s ban ALL restaurants and supermarkets and have the state run community kitchens where they’ll only serve federally approved foods. THAT will surely make us all lean and happy.

    Right?

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