Friday, January 3, 2014


"Obesity" is a term that has terrifying connotations in most wealthy countries like the United States of America. Though obesity measured by the BMI yardstick vis-a-vis an individual manifests outwardly by bloating of the body and resultant disfiguration, it causes many diseases which can be life threatening. This is the reason why global health agencies like the WHO are warning countries which are on the threshold of economic prosperity that they should not allow uncontrolled growth of fast food industries while evolving food industry policies. International food and beverage giants, mostly based in the US are seeing the writing on the walls and are slowly reforming themselves to transform their food products into more healthy ones in these countries. However they are trying to compensate their losses in the US through large scale investments in developing economies like China and India where awareness about health implications is rather low, to promote their unhealthy products. Here is a critical commentary on this new trend which deserves outright condemnation. 

"As a result of these and other public awareness campaigns, the American fast food industry – although slower than some may like - has been gradually rewriting their menus and marketing campaigns, many of which are aimed at kids. At the same time, the junk food industry - sensing the sea change of attitudes in the United States as the physical effects of junk food manifests itself - are investing increasingly in foreign markets where public awareness of the subject is not so developed. Similar to the crackdown on the tobacco industry in the late 1990s, US fast food companies are busy setting up shop abroad for easy, unregulated markets to hawk their wares. Already the size of their presence is breathtaking: "Coca-Cola and PepsiCo together control almost 40 percent of the world's $532 billion soft drink market, according to the Economist. Soda sales, meanwhile, have more than doubled in the last 10 years, with much of that growth driven by developing markets. McDonald's investors were disappointed that the company only turned $1.4 billion in profit during the second quarter of 2013, having become used to years of double-digit gains every three months," according to the Foreign Policy report. So while the United States is steadily finding ways to regulate its fast food, soft drink industry, and thus nip the obesity epidemic in the bud, it is, at the same time, legislating on behalf of unhealthy exports abroad. Now the question is, will the rest of the world bite the hand that feeds?"

It is argued that industry has every right to manufacture what they feel the consumers like and to keep their financial health sound. But lately the social accountability factors are being cited to restrain them from marketing unhealthy foods. Probably history is repeating itself as witnessed in the case of  alcohol and tobacco industries earlier. Fortunately both these industries have fallen in line to desist from promoting their products though no government has the guts to ban them outright considering the bad effect of these products on human health. It is a question of time before food industry also has to fall in line and rein in their policy of selling junk foods and similar unhealthy products to the unweary consumers, most of them being ignorant about the ill-effects of such foods.


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