Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Earns SICK Award

The Physicians Committee, a nonprofit of more than 10,000 doctors, has asked Eric Gatoff, the CEO of Nathan’s Famous, Inc., to cancel the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The competition glorifies excessive consumption of fat and cholesterol, and hot dogs are linked with several chronic diseases. This national health hazard has earned Nathan’s the Physicians Committee’s SICK (Social Irresponsibility toward Consumers and Kids) Award.

“The link between hot dog consumption and cancer should be taken just as seriously as the link between smoking and cancer,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee in a letter to Eric Gatoff of Nathan’s Famous Inc. “When you consider the health ramifications, there are no winners in a hot dog eating contest.”

In 2013, Joey Chestnut won Nathan’s hot dog eating contest by consuming 18,270 calories, 1,173 grams of fat, 414 grams of saturated fat, 35.4 grams of trans fat, and 2,415 milligrams of cholesterol. High amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat lead to heart disease, which causes one in every four deaths, and meat consumption is a risk factor for diabetes. Consuming just one hot dog per day can raise diabetes risk by 51 percent.

“At this rate, the United States will only reach No. 1 in heart disease, obesity, and diabetes rates,” says Levin. On the Fourth of July alone, Americans will consume more than 150 million hot dogs. And in just a single year, colorectal cancer will likely kill 50,000 Americans. Instead of barbecued meat, party-goers can fill their plates with fresh fruits and grilled vegetables. “Cancel the eating contest, re-evaluate your menu, and help reverse America’s health crisis,” Levin urges in her letter.

The Physicians Committee gives the SICK Award to restaurant chains and food manufacturers that promote unhealthy foods to consumers and children.

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