Why isn't junk food banned?

Ready-made foods on the advance

Eat What's Unhealthy?

The proportion of processed food with high levels of sugar, fat and meat is increasing sharply worldwide. More and more people are turning to ready-made food that can be prepared in a few simple steps. On the one hand, it is considered chic, modern and privileged to consume finished products. On the other hand, more and more people are spending less and less time shopping and elaborate cooking. This is also due to long working days and long journeys to work. The menu then includes instant noodle dishes, sugary dairy dishes or yogurts, breakfast cereals and biscuits through to burger dishes and soft drinks.

Micronutrients such as vitamins or trace elements are artificially added to many of these foods so that they are supposedly nutritious. However, the interactions between the various ingredients and their compatibility are disregarded.


We want to control what is in our food and how it is prepared. We want to feel natural taste and smell; we want to eat - embedded in our family, community and culture.
Biraj Patnaik, Right to Food Campaign

Illness maker as a health promise

While consumers in industrialized countries are increasingly opting for regional, organic-certified and less processed products due to greater health awareness, the situation is partly different in poorer countries. This benefits a food industry that, like McDonald’s, Nestlé and Danone, is committed to the production of highly processed foods and junk food. It is pushing into the markets in countries in the south and wants to win over poorer sections of the population as consumers. The growth in the market segment for convenience foods and soft drinks with large amounts of sugar, fat and salt is now almost exclusively taking place there. Even the emerging countries of China, Brazil and South Africa can no longer be conquered in this regard, as the companies there have already achieved a similar market penetration as in industrialized countries.

Aggressive marketing strategies contribute significantly to the spread of unhealthy junk food and convenience foods. The corporations claim that manufactured food is practical and nutritious. In this way, you are driving the change in eating habits and the displacement of self-prepared foods. For example in India, where Nestlé offers Indian workers and schoolchildren the ready-made meals Maggi Atta Noodles or Maggi DalNoodles as particularly quick-to-prepare lunches. Health claims are also widespread. So sugary yogurt leads to the prevention of intestinal disorders, promises Danone in South Africa, an advertising promise that is banned in Germany, for example. In many countries, government regulations are insufficient to better protect consumers from these promises.


Globalization of an unhealthy lifestyle

The consequences for people's health and local health systems are serious. The number of people suffering from obesity has doubled worldwide since 1980). By 2025, the number of obese people will rise to around 228 million globally; Most affected are populous countries such as India and China. 33 million children under five in emerging and developing countries are overweight and more than 161 million children worldwide suffer from stunting, underdevelopment caused by malnutrition. Many of them will suffer the health effects of malnutrition for life.

The direct consequences of malnutrition and malnutrition are a major burden for the countries concerned. There are high treatment costs for people, their communities and the health system. But productivity losses must also be taken into account, as affected people cannot work due to acute symptoms of illness, for example. The ailments widely known as “Western diseases of affluence” such as hypertension, type II diabetes mellitus and obesity as well as the associated cardiovascular diseases and premature deaths are extremely increasing in emerging and developing countries. The globalization of an unhealthy lifestyle has been shown to be one of the main causes.

The health systems in emerging and developing countries are thus burdened twice (double burden of malnutrition): on the one hand due to the challenges of hunger and malnutrition and on the other hand due to overeating and obesity.


Tax regulation

So something urgently needs to be done. The manufacturers of health-endangering products must be stopped - through state regulation to maintain health. Great Britain introduced a so-called "limo tax" for this in summer 2016. It is a tax on soft drinks that contain more than five grams of added sugar per 100 milliliters; as a corporate tax, this tax is only charged to the producer. The proceeds from this are to be used for health programs for school children. Mexico, the country with the highest number of diabetes cases worldwide, was the first country to introduce a tax on sugary drinks back in 2014. Initial studies show that this actually leads to a reduced consumption of soft drinks.

In addition, strong political guidelines are required which, through an approach at various levels, on the one hand put the corporations in their place and on the other hand hold the population accountable. Through targeted prevention work, consumers must be put in a position where they can weigh up the pros and cons of the various diets and, ideally, decide against industrially manufactured and unhealthy products. Only when the sales figures of the corporations in this segment fall will they rethink their strategies and focus on other products.


Take-away material

City, country, food - who will feed the cities in the future?

Bread for the World works together with its partner organizations all over the world to ensure that people in the city can eat enough, healthy and diverse food. Permanent access to a diverse range of healthy foods is a prerequisite for this. How this can be ensured and which aspects need to be taken into account with regard to healthy eating in cities are shown in the articles in this publication on the main topic of the 56th to 58th Bread for the World campaign. Because the same applies to city dwellers: Full is not enough!

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