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Natural-cut fries don’t cut it naturally

Unless you’ve successfully avoided radio, TV and the Internet for the past month, you’ve likely seen or heard advertisements for Wendy’s new Natural-Cut French Fries with sea salt. I’ve seen and heard plenty of these ads by now, yet I still can’t make it through one without chuckling and rolling my eyes.

First of all, what does “natural-cut” even mean? That each fry has been whittled with love by an eager on-site employee wielding a buckskin knife? That no “unnatural” machinery or electric slicers were used in the cutting of said French fries? OK, I get that Wendy’s is referring to the skin that’s left on in attempt to yield a fry more akin to a potato’s natural state. But what makes that lumpy, brown skin so appealing? Sure, it offers some fiber and iron, but if you look to French fries for these nutrients, you’re in trouble.

Secondly, sea salt? Really? Doesn’t all salt—albeit indirectly and perhaps over a period of eons—come from the sea? How do we know whether Wendy’s uses real, bona fide sea salt or just a coarser, chunkier version of table salt? Either way, it doesn’t matter too much health-wise: While sea salt is less refined than table salt, it lacks iodine and packs just as much sodium.

But besides skins and salt, are Wendy’s new-gen fries actually any healthier than the old versions they replaced? (The restaurant’s website displays nutrition info for the new fries but not for the old, so I can’t promise 100 percent factualness for the latter.) But, according to a blog post, while a medium order of the new fries has 420 calories, a medium order of the old ones had 410. The new fries also allegedly have more fat, carbohydrates and sodium than the old fries. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new fries are tastier, but healthier? Not so much. And they’re definitely not more natural.

Clearly, this is merely another unhealthy food outlet’s stab at luring in customers with unfounded “natural” claims. And as we New Hope editors report on and blog about frequently, when terms like natural, organic, green and sustainable get tossed around with reckless abandon and without regulation, everyone loses. Everyone, that is, except for Wendy’s and the like, who rake in money from fast-food frequenters who feed on these claims and falsely believe that they’re eating well.  

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