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22/06/02 . By Randy Dotinga . Health Scout News Reporter . HAWAII
McDonald's wants to find out if Hawaiians love the smell of Spam in the morning as much as they do in the afternoon and evening.
So, the world's largest fast-food chain is launching a test of breakfast entrees featuring the luncheon meat in the Aloha State, where Spam is already extremely popular at other times of the day.
A nutritionist warned, however, that while Spam isn't bad by itself, it's not exactly a staple of a healthy diet.
"That wouldn't be the breakfast I would suggest every morning," says Jo Ann Hattner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Spam, of course, is a canned meat product. It's also been the butt of several decades' worth of jokes; the British comedy troupe Monty Python featured skits about it. And "spam" (without the capital "S") has become a generic term for unwanted junk e-mail.
But many Americans can't get enough of the stuff. It's especially popular in Hawaii, where citizens chow down an average of five cans a year.
Spam was born in 1937 and originally called Hormel Spiced Ham, but the winner of a naming contest turned it into Spam.
Later in its career, Spam debuted across the globe. Lite Spam hit supermarket shelves in 1992, and three years later Hormel sold the five billionth can of the product. There's even a Spam Museum in Austin, Minn.
Spam is especially popular in the South, where Hattner says her Alabama family was raised on sandwiches of sliced and fried Spam. "It's a convenient way to buy and store food," she says. "It was like opening a can of tuna fish."
Spam is a hit in Hawaii, too, possibly because of its common use during World War II, says Melanie Okazaki, director of marketing for McDonald's in the state. A quick meal of Spam and rice in a bowl, called Spam musubi, remains popular, Okazaki says.
This month, the 78 McDonald's restaurants in Hawaii introduced a $2.69 breakfast platter featuring low-salt Spam, scrambled eggs and rice. During the first few days, the restaurants sold about 3,000 Spam platters each morning, Okazaki says.
The eggs and Spam alone pack 500 calories, a number that's too high for Hattner's tastes.
U.S. health officials recommend no more than 2,000 calories a day for an average woman, and 2,500 for an average man. Only people who work in physically strenuous jobs need the morning energy boost of a McDonald's Spam meal, she says.
However, Hattner follows the American Dietetic Association's policy of not demonizing any particular food. Spam is fine in moderation, she says.
"If you didn't eat any other high-fat sources for the day, it would work," she says. "You wouldn't want to eat that for breakfast, and then have hamburgers for lunch with French fries."
The Spam platters, at least for now, are only a test. McDonald's will sell them until August and then evaluate how they did, Okazaki says.
She wouldn't be surprised if McDonald's restaurants on the mainland pay
close attention. "People will be
looking at it pretty intently to see if it will fit into their
marketplace," she says.