Saturday, March 19, 2005

What is the nutrition profile of the USDA-supported Quiznos promotion?

The controversial USDA sponsored beef checkoff ("Beef: It's What's for Dinner") last fall collaborated with the Quiznos fast food restaurant chain to promote a Steakhouse Beef Dip sub sandwich:
“We are excited about our partnership with Quiznos Sub because sandwich shops are one of the fastest growing segments of foodservice, and the beef industry is taking advantage of this growth to sell more beef,” says Sid Sumner, a Bartow, Fla., beef producer who chairs the beef industry’s Joint Foodservice Committee. “Quiznos Sub is the fastest growing sandwich chain in the U.S., and is experiencing phenomenal growth – which makes it a perfect place to promote beef.”
As you know, American consumers' increasing reliance on fast food restaurants is one of several leading suspects in the obesity epidemic, so one might wonder if this is the right sort of thing for USDA to be pushing. One concern is that the very affordability of fast food may encourage overconsumption. Another concern is that fast food leans heavily toward high-meat diets, while the federal government's Dietary Guidelines by contrast encourage more consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lowfat dairy, while simultaneously reducing calories overall. In particular the Dietary Guidelines stand in opposition to high-fat, high-protein, low-carb dietary fads. So consider the price and nutritional positioning of the USDA-sponsored Quiznos promotion:
The Quiznos Steakhouse Beef Dip Sub features tender roast beef smothered in rich French onion sauce, and melted Swiss cheese, served in a toasted Quiznos roll, with a side of beefy, pan roasted au jus. For a limited time, the 6-inch sub sells for $2.99, and the 10-inch sub for $5.49. The Steakhouse Beef Dip is also available on Low Carb Toasty™ Flatbread.
Well, maybe it's not as much of a nutritional disaster as it sounds, right? I followed a link on the Quiznos website, which includes nutrition information for just 3 healthy lowfat sandwiches, but not information for the rest of the product line. Suspiciously, there was no information for the luscious Beef Dip Sub described above. Another link let me fill in personal information in order to request further nutrition information (to my annoyance, there was no privacy policy posted, but I provided the information anyway). I will post a followup if I hear back. Next, I stopped off at a Quiznos shop on my way home from work. No nutrition information was posted on the walls, and the sandwich makers said they could not provide any either. When I asked if there was really no nutrition information, the cashier provided a tear sheet that listed only "net carbs" for low-carb dieters!

Now, I am against Big Brother, and am happy to let Quiznos choose its own ingredients. An informed consumer can then make his or her own choice about what food to eat. But, how can the consumer make an informed choice if Quiznos hides its nutrition profile? In the current public health environment, Quiznos should be ashamed, and its executives should lose sleep over this. And what about USDA and the checkoff board whose speech it claims as the federal government's own position? Is this the right product, the right company, and the right degree of nutritional transparency for a department that claims to deserve the mantle of leadership on federal nutrition guidance?


Anonymous said...

Major new discovery: Quizno's Australian web site has nutritional information. I'm not sure how their sizes compare to ours but here is the link:

Anonymous said...

Hi Parke. I'm glad that you made this post. For 6 years I've been trying to get additional nutrition information from Quizno's. It is very frustrating. The fact that they won't share this information had led me to avoid eating there altogether.

Anonymous said...

Parke, I too am glad you created this, I am very frustrated that the nutrition information is not available at Quizno's. At nearly every other restaurant I am able to find nutritional information but Quizno's makes no effort to provide this to their customers. That said I am no longer a customer of Quizno's.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It's no secret why Quiznos doesn't release their nutritional information. Their subs have more meat and more sauces than Subway's subs and they are scared sh*tless of Subway running an advertising campaign saying that Subaway subs have an average of 30% less fat and calories than Quiznos, or something to that effect. I personally eat there rarely because I have been dieting and strictly count calories, but intuitively when you know what kind of meat is on the sub, and how much sauce or whatever is on it, you can guesstimate what you're looking at calorie wise. There is no way that 1/3 of a sub and the chips or especially the salad (unless maybe it's the angus beef with double meat or something extreme) could be nearly as bad as a BK or a McDonalds value meal, or eating at Pizza Hut or something like that. I would even hazard to guess that the normal 2/3 sandwich thing and chips that most people order would be, at worst, comparable to the Big Mac value meal, etc. I think the real problem is not that the food is exceptionally caloric, but that Quiznos wants to shirk any direct comparison to Subway and Subway wouldn't allow them to duck the comparison. In releasing their nutritional information any business they would gain from health nuts would be lost many times over by current customers choosing Subway instead, once Subway harps on how much lower in calories their subs are.

"Here's why Quizno's wanting to keep their calories a secret doesn't make sense to me: A potential customer that counts calories (or other data) might eat a company's product after they check the nutrition data, but won't eat it if they discover the company won't reveal the data. Sure, most people don't care and don't check, but others do and those people aren't eating at Quizno's. Isn't that bad for business? And there are a lot of people who check nutrition info before they eat; a half million a month on my web site alone."