junk food dose too big for US to swallow
NEW YORK -- Ralph Nader, an ex-presidential aspirant and one of
America's best known consumer advocates, was probably right when
he warned last year that the real weapons of mass destruction are
not nuclear, biological and chemical weapons-- but double-cheeseburgers
and junk food served in fast food restaurants.
World Health Organisation (WHO), which fought a relentless battle
against the cigarette industry last year, is about to send its own
version of arms inspectors checking the fat and salt contents of
hamburgers, French fries, cheeseburgers and fried chicken.
extolling the virtues of globalisation, one New York Times columnist
has advocated what he calls the "Golden Arches" theory
-- a symbol of the American fast food giant McDonalds. No two countries
with McDonalds, he says, have ever gone to war with each other--
a theory long disproved.
then, after the dust has settled both in Iraq and Afghanistan, most
of the American fast food chains are planning a second invasion
of the two countries.
the victors are the fruits -- and fast food markets -- of an imperialistic
war. But there is also another name for it: globalisation. Last
week, the WHO sought formal approval from its policy-making body,
the 192-nation World Health Assembly, for a new Global Strategy
on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
the guidelines laid down for the cigarette industry in a treaty
adopted last year, the WHO strategy on food calls for cuts in sugar,
fat and salt contents in fast foods -- primarily to fight heart
disease, obesity and diabetes.
approved, the restrictions will also include curbs on advertisements
and new national tax policies to promote healthier diets. But the
American fast food industry -- which spends millions of dollars
each year glorifying junk food -- is biting back.
protests have also come from the sugar industry, which says that
some of the charges are not based on scientific data. With help
from the Bush administration, it is not only arguing that the WHO
strategy is flawed but also playing for time in order to accelerate
a major campaign against the proposed restrictions.
WHO has, for the moment, accepted a US proposal for a 30-day reprieve
for governments to discuss the matter further. Despite the fact
that junk food is one of the primary causes of obesity, the industry
still continues to have a stranglehold on American dietary habits.
Washington-based Worldwatch Institute says that American children
are brainwashed with 40,000 television ads per year - one half of
which promote unhealthy food and drinks.
the US -- described as the world's fattest nation after Samoa --
there are almost twice as many overweight children and three times
as many overweight teenagers as two decades ago. The average weight
of some Americans has reached a point where coffin makers are called
upon to make giant-sized coffins to accommodate bodies weighing
up to 318 kg. The American infatuation with junk food is best described
in "Fast Food Nation: the Darker Side of the All-American Meal"
authored by Eric Schlosser.
that infatuation is fast spreading to developing nations, including
India and Sri Lanka, where the younger generation is being lured
to abandon their native delicacies in favour of junk food. "The
Golden Arches," Schlosser says, "are now more widely recognized
than the Christian cross."
also points out that the whole experience of buying fast food has
become so routine, so thoroughly unexceptional and mundane, that
it is now taken for granted -- like brushing your teeth or stopping
at a red light.
to the latest figures released by the International Obesity Task
Force, about 300 million people worldwide are obese and some 750
million people overweight, including 22 million children under the
age of five. A mind, they say, is a terrible thing to waste. But
then the waist is a terrible thing to mind -- particularly if it
is of gargantuan proportions.