Weight Watchers needs to send a calorie counter to Applebee's restaurants, a federal lawsuit claims.
The restaurant chain has been serving Weight Watchers-endorsed meals since 2004. Their menus post the fat, fiber and calories along with the Weight Watchers "points" for each dish.
But an analysis done this year by independent Analytical Labs in Boise, Idaho, showed that Applebee's math is all wrong - and so was the math of other chain restaurants, especially on items they advertise as "healthy."
"They found in no uncertain terms that it wasn't even close," said lawyer August Matteis, who has filed a $5 million class-action suit against Applebee's. "People go into places like Applebee's for the healthy menu, and a lot of people go specifically because they have that option."
In one case, Applebee's says its Cajun Lime Tilapia dish has 6 grams of fat and 310 calories, but the study discovered 14.3 grams of fat and 401 calories, according to court papers. In another, the Steak and Portobellos meal was advertised as having 10 fat grams, but actually has double that amount.
Two other meals had triple the amount of listed fat grams: the Italian Chicken and Portobello Sandwich has 18.6 grams of fat, while the Garlic Herb Chicken had 18. Both are listed on the Applebee's menu as having 6.
The claims are all the more disturbing, Matteis said, because Weight Watchers is a powerful brand. "Weight Watchers is probably the most respected diet institution in the world," he said.
The $5 million lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Kansas, where Applebee's is headquartered.
Applebee's parent company, DineEquity, Inc., and New York-based Weight Watchers are also being sued.
Manhattan dancer Alison Solomon, a potential plaintiff, says that when she traveled for work, she was relying on Applebee's Weight Watchers menu to make sure she was eating healthy.
"It's very upsetting to learn that what you're getting is not what we're told," Solomon said. "If the claims are true, then I can't trust the menu."
Weight Watchers declined to comment. Applebee's said it warns customers that a difference between the nutritional information on its menus and what's actually in the food "is inevitable."
"We are closely reviewing the claims made in the litigation," spokesman Miles McMillan said. "We do not believe the claims have merit."
The same lab, commissioned by a Scripps Howard TV station, found similar misinformation at other restaurants. The "Guiltless Grill" salmon at Chili's didn't live up to its name, coming in at 35 fat grams, well above the claimed 14.
And a Taco Bell steak soft taco actually had 20 grams of fat and 297 calories, instead of the advertised 4.5 fat grams and 160 calories.I don't like posting articles that show Weight Watchers in a negative light. But I felt it was necessary to post something like this as a sort of warning. Thank you Donna from WWMSG for sharing this with the group.