Dr. Brian Wansink, professor of marketing  and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, has tackled weighty issues such as what the paintings of "The Last Supper" can tell us about their diets, how kitchen spoons could be poisoning children and why we all think vegetarians are sissies.(1)

Now he and two co-authors have tackled the last meals of prisoners about to die. They found it's almost like those prisoners were throwing dietary caution to the wind just before they are executed for being rapists and murderers.  The lesson for marketing types, they concluded? Invoke mortality in campaigns against obesity - like "you don't want to end up a death row inmate do you, fatty?"

They believe the results, that people about to die order an average meal of 2,756 calories, are indicative of the role food plays in stress, instead of the obvious - that people are ordering a last meal to try and be funny, like having canned spaghetti, or obtuse (one pitted olive) but invariably don't much care about being a skinny corpse. They know junk food is bad for them yet almost 68% ordered fried foods for a last meal while only 25% ordered a salad. Few ordered vegetarians meals. That's an indictment of their socio-economic upbringing.

Maybe as a pre-final final punishment, prisoners should have to endure First Lady Michelle Obama's condescending "Supermarket Shopping 101" before they get that McDonald's meal.  If they had a mom who showed them how to push a cart in a grocery store, well maybe they wouldn't be on Death Row. And 60% ordered sodas, which may be another reason for New York City to ban Big Gulps - they turn people into criminals.

More interesting to me is why, of the 247 executions they studied between 2002 and 2006, 51 inmates ordered no last meal at all.  Marketing people shouldn't be happy until everyone is ordering a last meal, preferably like the 40% who ordered a particular name brand for their final supper.

Citation: Brian Wansink, Kevin M. Kniffin, Mitsuru Shimizum 'Death row nutrition. Curious observations of last meals', Appetite, in press, available online 24 August 2012


(1) And a lot more.