2009.03.25 Death by Peep

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

You just never know where the next health threat might come from. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be from that gentle Easter favorite, the Marshmallow Peep.

Actually it’s not the edible version of the Peep that’s the problem. The simple combination of sugar and marshmallow makes my teeth hurt after ingesting just a few, long before they could cause any real trouble. I’d guess that’s the case with most people. It’s the toy version that could be deadly.

I recently spotted a Peeps brand “Magic Light Up Chick” while shopping in a dollar store. It looked simple enough, just put the plastic chick in water and it lights up with a Peep-like glow. I thought I’d test it out, then give to a friend who enjoys eating Peeps.

Then I noticed a warning on the package back: “Battery contains mercury. Do not put in trash. Recycle or manage as Hazardous Waste.” That’s a bit of a shock. The package front says for ages 4 and up, but the back makes it sound like you should have a few EPA experts on call before opening it.

Yes, apparently it’s safe enough to put in your pre-schooler’s bath water, but too dangerous to dispose of in your trash, as if both were possible. Now I’m not quite sure what to do with mine. I’m afraid to open it, no longer want to give it as a gift and it’s much too embarrassing to take a plastic Peep to a hazardous waste disposal facility. The Peep now sits next to my computer with what I swear is a smirk on its “face.”

If I really wanted to test my mortality, it probably would be a lot simpler just to go to Chandler, Arizona, for a meal at the Heart Attack Grill. The menu there features four hamburgers, called Bypass Burgers, ranging from 1/2 pound up to two pounds. On the side, how about an order of “Flatliner Fries,” deep fried in 100% pig fat? The rest of the menu includes hard liquor, beer and no-filter cigarettes, making the restaurant a sort of one-stop headquarters for bad habits.

The grill is owned by “Dr. Jon,” who the restaurant’s website refers to as a “non-AMA recognized physician.” He can usually be found behind the griddle, making burgers while dressed in a lab coat and stethoscope. Customers are referred to as patients, restaurant orders are called prescriptions and waitresses are known as nurses. In fact, the waitresses actually dress in skimpy nurses outfits.

Anyone actually finishing the two-pound Quadruple Bypass Burger is rewarded by being pushed out to their car in a wheelchair by the waitress, make that nurse, of their choice. One customer reportedly finished the burger in one minute and 47 seconds. That should have given him plenty of time to enjoy the all-you-can-eat french fry bar, too.

Or maybe not. After all, the Quadruple Bypass Burger has approximately 8,000 calories. That would be enough to cover a normal person’s caloric intake for, oh, three full days, maybe four if you’re dieting. Wait, that’s right, you wouldn’t be there if you were dieting.

And speaking of not dieting, Dr. Jon offers those weighing in at 350 pounds or more all the burgers and fries they can down at no cost. The lucky customer only has to buy their own beverages (and cigarettes, too, I would guess). Since the single burger alone costs over seven dollars, I suspect this little public service probably costs the “doctor” and saves the customer, I mean patient, quite a bit.

Being owner of what his website calls “perhaps the world’s most politically incorrect restaurant” does have its downside. In late 2006, about a year after opening the restaurant, “Dr. Jon” was threatened with closure by the Arizona Attorney General. The “doctor” was even arrested after attempting to spray a group of picketers in front of the restaurant with a fire hose.

The addition of several disclaimers to the website explaining that employees have no medical training, the restaurant provides no medical services and employees offer no therapeutic treatments have been enough to keep the authorities at bay, so far.

Meanwhile, the customers keep coming. The menu sounds interesting, but come on, a hamburger with 8,000 calories? I might be better off eating that glowing plastic Peep, mercury and all.

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