Anti-health rebelliousness ended in tragedy again this month. Edward Archbold died minutes after participating in a cockroach-and-worm-eating contest. Ben Siegel Reptiles in Broward County, Fla., sponsored the event and awarded Archbold first prize—a live python—shortly before he collapsed on the sidewalk and expired.
It’s called competitive eating, designed to see how many hot dogs, greasy burgers, or, yes, cockroaches and worms, participants can shovel down in a short period of time. But really, there are no winners in these contests. So PCRM has petitioned Broward County to ban these unhealthful, dangerous, and unethical events.
The annual Nathan’s Famous Hot-Dog Eating Contest is perhaps the best-known of these gluttonous competitions. This year’s winner ate 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. His prize: an increased risk of cancer. Just one 50-gram serving of processed meat (about the amount in one hot dog) consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer. These contests also happen daily at restaurants across the country. The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas the restaurant eagerly rewards obesity: “Over 350 Pounds? Eat For Free!” Earlier this year a customer was hospitalized after eating there. And in 2011, Blair River, a Heart Attack Grill spokesman who weighed 575 pounds, died.
Everyone likes competition. But glorifying the very worst foods, particularly in ways that reach children and that have begun to take lives—well, it’s time to call it quits.
Watch the video below to find out more about the dangers of competitive eating. Then read the petition Mark Kennedy, PCRM’s director of legal affairs, and Joseph Gonzales, R.D., L.D., a PCRM nutritionist, submitted to the Broward County Board of Commissioners asking for a ban on eating contests in Broward County.
Oct. 18, 2012
Mayor John E. Rodstrom Jr., District 7 Commissioner
Broward County Board of Commissioners
Broward County Governmental Center
115 S. Andrews Ave., Room 416
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Re: Ban Eating Contests in Broward County
Dear Mayor Rodstrom,
We are writing to ask that the Broward County Board of County Commissioners act on a critically important issue brought to the county’s attention by the recent death of Edward Archbold by adopting an ordinance banning dangerous eating contests in Broward County. As you know, Mr. Archbold died earlier this month after participating in a contest sponsored by Ben Siegel Reptiles in Broward County in which contestants ate worms and cockroaches. Other eating contests involve gorging on massive amounts of unhealthful foods and serve only to glamorize unhealthful foods and dysfunctional eating habits.
We make this request on behalf of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit public health advocacy organization whose Broward County members are concerned about the impact of the overconsumption of unhealthful foods.
Some Broward County restaurants promote daily contests that encourage participants to consume vast quantities unhealthful foods for publicity purposes. For example, The Whole Enchilada in Oakland Park dares patrons to consume the 6-pound “Ex-Wife” burrito, which is packed with meat and cheese, within 45 minutes. Similarly, the “Titan Burger Challenge” at Quickie’s Burger’s & Wings in Hollywood lures patrons into devouring a burger that consists of “four pounds of beef, half a pound of bacon, enough cheese to blanket Biscayne Bay and all the trimmings.”
As stated in the Broward County Charter, the "County Commission comprises the Legislative Branch of County government empowered to enact ordinances and resolutions, and to take action that is consistent with this Charter and that is in the best interest of the health, safety, and welfare of the County's citizens." Broward County Charter, art. II, § 2.01. Late last year, the commission exercised its broad powers under this mandate by adopting an ordinance prohibiting the delivery of smoking pipes and smoking devices to persons under 18 years of age. See Ordinance 2011-17. Likewise, we ask that the commission now exercise its duty to "protect the health, safety and general welfare of the consuming public in food establishments" within the county. Broward County Code of Ordinances § 15-151.
Mr. Archbold “won” the “Eat Bugs for Balls” contest by eating more large roaches than any other participant in a four-minute period. According to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, Mr. Archbold consumed “dozens of roaches and worms” shortly before vomiting and collapsing. He died shortly thereafter. Although Mr. Archbold’s contest focused on insects and worms, most food-eating contests involve hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, or other high-fat, high-cholesterol foods, including the examples cited above.
The goal of these contests is publicity for the foods in question, which is harmful to the citizens of Broward County, particularly children and teenagers who may come to see unhealthful foods in an inappropriately favorable light. Consumption of large amounts of meat and cheese products can cause cholesterol levels to skyrocket and waistlines to expand. Just one fatty meal can raise blood pressure, boost triglycerides, stiffen major arteries, and cause the heart to beat harder, increasing the risk of heart attack. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, just one 50-gram serving of processed meat (about the amount in one hot dog) consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent. Food-eating contests that are focused on unhealthful foods endanger the participants, harm public health, and put eating establishments at legal risk.
On behalf of PCRM’s Broward constituency, I ask you to put an end to unhealthful and ill-advised food-eating contests in Broward County by adopting an ordinance banning them outright. Please do not wait for another victim to fall prey to the dangers of so-called competitive eating before taking meaningful action to protect Broward County residents.