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Monday, April 8, 2019

Junk food ~ How America's problem moved to China !!


In life, people live on perceptions, more so, to make others feel that they are urban and suave.  There is an allure around the popular food brands because they are from the West and represent something very clean and modern ! ~ so they are good and will not spoil one’s stomach is the popular notion. !

You may or may not know –‘Colonel Harland David Sanders’ – but the brand he created is so popular over the globe ! His name and image are still symbols of the company; the title 'colonel' was honorary,  not the military rank.Sanders held a number of jobs in his early life, including Insurance sales – but was to hit high with his  "secret recipe" and his patented method of cooking !  Sanders recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in South Salt Lake, Utah in 1952. He made it big expanding in United States and in Overseas.    In 1964, then 73 years old, he sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack C. Massey for $2 million.

Often the ills of today, more specifically health-related, food-related problems  in the society are associated with ‘junk food’.  Junk food is a pejorative term, dating back at least to the 1950s, describing food that is high in calories from sugar or fat, with little dietary fibre, protein, vitamins or minerals.  Concerns about the negative health effects resulting from a junk food-heavy diet, especially obesity, have resulted in public health awareness campaigns, and restrictions on advertising and sale in several countries. So there have been campaigns and people speaking on need for tradition food as against fast food.

A freaky trend that has taken YouTube by storm involves bingeing on huge volumes of food in front of total strangers.Known as mukbang videos, the viral clips show young women and men scoffing enormous meals in front of hoards of people online.According to The Sun, some make millions from their channels and are regularly branded a “sexy turn on” by their fans.   Originating in South Korea, mukbang (pronounced “mook-bong”) involves watching people binge eat via a YouTube live stream.The phrase comes from combining the Korean words for eating (muok-da) and broadcast (bang song).

Dishes range from spicy ramen to cereal to McDonald’s and a host of Korean dishes… .. .. that for sure would include ‘KFC’ too.  Kentucky Fried Chicken [KFC]  is an American fast food restaurant chain.  Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, it is the world's second-largest restaurant chain (as measured by sales) after McDonald's.  KFC was one of the first American fast food chains to expand internationally, opening outlets in Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Jamaica by the mid-1960s.

The first Indian KFC was a two-storey outlet on the fashionable Brigade Road in Bangalore in June 1995. The selection of the place was not right as  Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, one of the most influential, vocal and anti-foreign investment farmers' associations in the country protested against  anti-globalisation and environmental campaigners, as well as local farmers, who objected to the chain bypassing local producers. The outlet was closed by  local authorities in 1995, who claimed the company used illegally high amounts of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in its food.The outlet was to reopen again with an appeal before  the Karnataka High Court.

Now read this interesting post on ‘How America's Junk Food Problem Made Its Way To China’:  -  (excerpted from Huffington Post).

When KFC opened its first restaurant in Beijing in 1987, people from all over the city flocked there for a taste of America. Foreign brands were still a novelty after the restrictions of the Mao Tse-tung era. Foreign fast-food restaurants represented quality and modernity, with KFC’s shiny three-story restaurant in China’s capital its largest in the world, seating up to 500 people.A KFC meal was considered a luxury to most residents at the time, referred to as “fine dining.” Given that the average monthly wage in China was around 100 yuan ($15 in today’s money), most people ate at the restaurant (with its 6-yuan hamburgers and 2.5-yuan fried chicken meals) only on special occasions.Today, KFC is the biggest fast-food brand in China, with more than 5,000 outlets. And over the last 30 years, KFC has been joined in China by Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.

The scale of expansion has been immense. Fast-food businesses in China generate annual revenue of $125 billion. McDonald’s owns about 2,500 stores, with new outlets opening in China nearly every day. Meanwhile, homegrown competitors are piling in, led by Dicos, a fried chicken brand with 2,000 outlets. But this fast-food love affair comes at a cost. It is a diet that has been linked by health academics to the rapid rise of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. And its popularity appears to be slowing as a younger generation begins to make more healthful choices and demand better options.

In October, a study published the Healthy High Density Cities Lab at the University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with Oxford University, showed that people living near fast-food outlets have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes.“We know it is unhealthy food, we know it adds calories, we know from other countries eating food that is disproportionately high in fats and salts is linked to obesity and hypertension,” said Barry Popkin, professor of global nutrition at the University of North Carolina. The influence of junk food companies in China has been in the spotlight this month as Coca-Cola came under fire for lobbying Beijing’s health ministers in an effort to obtain tax cuts and avoid regulations, such as soda taxes. Rapid urbanization and the greater availability and access to fast-food outlets are driving a shift in people’s diets, nutrition experts say. “There is an allure around these brands because they are from the West and represent something very clean and modern — something that was previously inaccessible when lives were more rural,” said Judy Bankman, a consultant and co-author of the Brighter Green report “Chronic Disease, Changing Diets and Sustainability.”

But the rise of diets heavy in salt, sugar and processed meat is linked to the increase of chronic illness across the country, said Popkin, a world expert best-known for coining the term “nutrition transition,” which describes the transition of developing countries from traditional diets high in cereal and fibre to western diets that are high in sugar, fat and animal-based products. That nutrition transition has been the case in China.“It is happening in all of Asia, but China is the fastest because its income is growing the fastest and the government is really pushing consumption,” he said. But China has not done anything “to regulate the intake of fats, sodium, sugar in a serious way.”Since 2014, China has had the highest number of obese adults (with the U.S. second), according to research from the medical journal The Lancet. Thirty percent of Chinese adults are overweight, and 12 percent are obese, according to China’s health watchdog, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.The country has more than 100 million diabetics — with Chinese adolescents ages 12 to 18 about four times more likely to develop diabetes than American teenagers. The higher risk factor in China is due to the rate of urbanization and economic development (increasing access to unhealthful food in cities), which contributes to diabetes. Genetic studies have suggested that inherited factors in the Chinese population may increase the risks too when compared with Caucasians.

Popkin said that unless swift action is taken to improve both disease prevention and treatment, the results could be grave for China. The intake of salty snacks, for example, has increased by a factor of 2.5 from 2005 to 2017, according to research at the University of North Carolina.“Adult mortality will start to increase and offset the declines in mortality ... from cutting infectious diseases and undernutrition. [People in China] are slowly moving to a point where we are predicting that mortality and disability will go up. ... It is a serious issue that health professionals talk about but the government is not acting on,” Popkin said.

However, there are signs Chinese consumers may be starting to switch awayfrom junk food. In the pockets of affluent districts in Shanghai and Beijing, there are a growing number of organic cafes and farmers markets springing up in fashionable malls. In 2013, Miles away in the paradise of Gujarat, KFC tried to allure locals getting local – opening an all-vegetarian KFC for Gujarat.  Sounds incredulous.   But it did  - KFC without  - ham sandwiches,fried chicken buckets and beef patties but a pure vegetarian menu……. It was  not even vegetarian menu, they are contemplating traditional Jain food. 

There are lessons to be learnt from them which will benefit our country too !

~ with regards – S. Sampathkumar
8th apr 2019

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