The Impact of the Food Industry on Public Health

It’s been pretty well demonstrated that marketing affects our lives in the West, and even those of us who try not to “drink the Kool-Aid” can still find ourselves in a position where we need a serving or two of the poison just to lubricate our lives in the middle of a marketing-captive society. This means, simply, that sometimes I and others I know will eat McDonald’s because it’s easier than enforcing my personal food politics on an unwilling party. It’s not like fast food fans don’t know that fast food is always a bad health choice, but it’s a regular food choice nonetheless.  So the EU’s request that the food industry start taking consumer health into account is both necessary and a sad comment on western society’s sales resistance.

I’m still on the fence about whether or not obesity should be taken into account as a symptom of ill health – I think whether or not obesity is a symptom, a disease in itself, or a condition of being for an individual MUST be taken on a case-by-case basis, and that physicians MUST learn to do all the testing first before concluding that someone’s weight is a problem.  But holding the fast food industry accountable for our choices?

Well, actually, maybe. Left unchecked, the food industry has a history of making deceiving claims, some more alarming and life-endangering than others. The incident most present in my memory is when Nestle’ decided that telling African mothers  their formula was healthier for infants than breast milk is a particularly notorious and shameful example of what companies are willing to do to human beings to feed ridiculous spiralling demands for corporate profit (there is a point where holding level is just fine). 

Fat or thin, food choices are a major part of our lives and long-term health. A good diet can determine healthy skin and good hair from a decrepit appearance. Fruits and vegetables are a key in preventing long-term diseases, and in ensuring you feel fine getting out of bed from day to day. Even though restaurants like KFC have removed trans fat from their foods – due to lawsuits -  that doesn’t guarantee the food is healthier; if you’re eating more protein than you need and less veggies, having protein with less fat won’t make that much of a difference.

The fast food industry will step up to a point – whatever it takes to make prepared food more convenient than home cooking. Come on, really – if KFC really wanted to offer healthier choices on their menu, why don’t they have collard greens as one of their sides? It has the perfect balance of calcium and magnesium, it’s a traditional side, and it’s quite palatable if it’s cooked properly.

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