Today’s fury is directed towards the fast food industry. Not surprising I’m sure. But it still needs to be said...
How on earth are chains like Maccas, KFC, Hungry Jacks, and, dare I say it, Subway, allowed to get away with it? With the epidemic that is obesity, heart disease, and diabetes sweeping the world, why are we still faced with these issues?
Now I understand that no one is crazy enough to think that eating this type of food is healthy for them. But here’s the catch. “We” are mature, educated adults who can make those decisions for ourselves. I have to ask however, what about our children? In a world where diabetes is now diagnosed in kids as young as 12, where obesity leads to the main causes of death across developed nations, and where, if we continue on this path of self-destruction, this will be the first generation of children born today that have a shorter life-expectancy than their parents, how are we still allowing these fast food giants to entice our children with “Happy Meals” and toys???
So yes, I’m furious. When I see children as young as four years of age being fed this sort of food, I weep for our future. These children don’t have a choice. They don’t have the understanding that the food that you put into your mouth can have a profound effect on your body (granted, some adults seem to miss this point too, but surely they can take personal responsibility for their actions).
I see three levels of blame here.
Firstly, the parents, who, for whatever reason, are regularly hitting up the drive through for their family meals. I was so fortunate growing up that my parents rarely fed me fast food. If we did have Maccas it was on a special occasion such as a birthday. They acknowledged that putting such poor quality food into our bodies was not healthy for us. And we were better for it. Maybe we didn’t always thank them for it at the time, but now as grown adults, we realise how lucky we were to have parents who made an effort for the benefit of our health. Many other children in this day and age are not so lucky.
I often hear the argument that people don’t have enough time or money to cook real food for their family. What a load of bull! If you can’t feed a family of four for under $20 (which is the cost of the Maccas ‘family meals’ currently advertised, then there is seriously something wrong)... The time factor? Come on! Once you factor in the time it takes to drive to the fast food joint, order your meal and pay, and either drive home to eat or find a spot within the restaurant, you could have enjoyed a beautiful home cooked stir fry!
Next, let’s consider the fast food joints themselves. Anyone who has any understanding of child development and psychology knows that if you associate something ‘fun’ with an activity, in this case, eating food, children will become conditioned to associate that feeling with the experience. The problem is that these “happy meals” and the toys that go with them are accompanied by cr@ppy food. Cr@ppy Meals! What child isn’t going to want a meal that comes with the latest Ben 10 action figure! They aren’t mature enough to understand the dangers of continually eating this food over a life time.
The pressure that advertising places on parents, pushing a subliminal message that they are a ‘bad’ parent if they don’t allow their children a regular trip to the local fast food place, is immense. It is understandable how parents get sucked in. And when more parents get sucked in, it becomes a vicious cycle, where children pit their own mums and dads against other ‘better’ parents. “Timmy gets to have a cheeseburger, so why can’t I?” No one wants to feel that they are disappointing their kids, and so they cave to the peer pressure situation. Problem is, while they think they are doing their precious children a favour in the short term, in the long run, they are leading them towards a path of obesity, poor health, and large doctors bills.
Finally, what blame do we place at the feet of the government and food industry regulators who allow this travesty to continue? Why aren’t all fast food restaurants banned from tailoring any advertising at children? Why are they allowed any advertising at all? We’ve made a big step forward in our acknowledgement of the dangers of smoking in the last few years, and I congratulate the government on regulating this industry. The question needs to be asked why isn’t the same emphasis placed on warning people of the dangers of eating fast food?! Considering that obesity-related diseases kill more people each year than smoking-related diseases, isn’t it about time that our government stands up and takes notice?
Certainly the first step would be banning any advertising which encourages children to see McDonalds, KFC, or Hungry Jacks as a fun and happy place to eat food. Happy Meals are dangerous. I don’t believe any child under 12 years of age should even step foot in a fast food restaurant (acknowledging that when children hit the teenage years they are given a bit more responsibility for their choices). Our children should know what a potato looks like when it is not in deep-fried chip form, should enjoy peeling a banana for themselves, and should be learning some basic cooking skills which will set them up for life. Children need to understand that food that comes from a drive-through window is not real food!
Maybe I sound a bit harsh here, but it really saddens me that the health of our children is being sabotaged before they even have a chance to enjoy their lives... Hopefully this post has given you some food for thought and you might re-consider that next cheeseburger :-p
ps - this post today is dedicated to my amazingly fantastic parents who set all of their four children up for life with an understanding of healthy eating and exercise habits - love you mum & dad!