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The question of Fast Food

Updated on April 29, 2015

fast food

The question of fast food

Recent studies and statistics point to another progressing problem within the global citizen – health problems caused by fast food consumption. What has even alarmed most activists in this field is the realisation that it is even affecting children the most. But the big question that need to be addressed is, considering the growth of the industry, and the increasing evident effects of fast food, should governments take stern measures in curbing the problem? And if yes, what measures in particular?

The industry

The concept of fast dates back to 1950 where it was first popularised in the United States. The concept gained its popularity due to urban development. While the term generally refers to food that is quickly prepared and served, it has grown to refer to all food and drinks sold at restaurants. The culture of fast food has, like all cultural aspects, grown to be global with the growth of multi-national food giants like McDonalds. In 2014, global fast-food sales were projected to reach $239.7 billion . Multi-national food and drink companies has managed to infiltrate almost all the countries, an example is of Coca Cola which in every country except Cuba and North Korea, McDonald is present in 119 countries in total . The soft drink concept started its niche as a drink that is taken twice or thrice a week, however this has drastically changed due to capitalism. The amount of investment and income that countries get from these big companies is also big business. In the United States alone, 4.1 million people are employed in the fast food industry. Studies have also shown that as people move to the global consumer class, they tend to take more of fast foods and McKinsey and Co project that by 2025, the global consumer class will “rise from $38 trillion to $64 trillion”, and are projected to spend about 20% more to eat on fast food. These statistics reveal one most important thing, that without some intervention, health problems associated with fast food consumption will not end.

The problem with fast foods

One of the biggest problems with fast food is overweight and obesity which in turn leads to more deadly diseases like cancer. Obesity and overweight used to be more of a problem with elderly people and today as more children get addicted to fast-food, they get the problem at an early age. According to the World Health Organization’s Global database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, 43 million preschool-aged children in the world were obese or over weight, and 92 million were at the risk of being obese. Sugary drinks have been shown to increase the risks of childhood overweight.
Overweight and obesity in childhood results in a range of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol levels. Also, fast food chains have been blamed for alleged animal cruelty, cultural degradation, and cases of worker exploitation.

What next?

A number of activists against fast-food have raised their concerns which has led to some notable changes. In 2014, the World Health Organization suggested that governments introduce tighter regulations to reverse the trend after their report the obesity crisis . This report including advocacy by non-governmental groups has led to the restriction of food chains through limiting the number of restaurants at any given location. Most food chains are increasingly offering more health-friendly menu items. Fast food outlets have been lobbied to consider eco-friendly alternatives with examples such as Chipotle Grill taking the lead in Eco-friendly initiatives. More could be done though. While other advocates push for government ban, questions on individual choice have been raised and the legitimacy of governments to make decisions for its citizens. What is of more importance rather is the benefit that comes with the regulation, and after all governments have in the past made decisions for its citizens. Governments should increase investment on healthier alternatives and decrease it on fast foods. A proper regulation on what is sold to children in schools is
an imperative and delayed move already, children unlike adults’ need the supervision on what is best for them and what is not. Parents should also understand the effects obesity has on their children and work towards curbing the problem. Also, an increased emphasis on the importance of healthy eating may reduce the problems. It ensures nurturing future citizens who are able to regulate food consumption from an informed point of view. Steps taken to ensure Fast food giants are eco-friendly should also be accelerated, and emphasized even in developing countries. The trend has been that, Fast Food giants also market targeting poor people who then fall victim of the side effects of the foods.

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