gimme-five | The blog of a busy guy.

Nov/06

7

We Can’t Blame Obesity on Fast Food

hamburger
Image from tspauld.

There is an increasing movement today to compare America’s fast food companies to the cigarette industry.  Yes, it’s true that they both sell products which have the potential to endanger one’s health if used.  Smoking a pack of cigarettes every day and eating three big macs every day can yield to similar degrees of health problems.

This is much of the logic behind a movement to punish the fast food industry.  Many people are suing McDonalds, Burger King, and other firms, claiming various things, all of which amount to an accusation that these fast food firms are creating an environment in which people are “encouraged” to eat poorly, thus acting as a main cause for obesity.

Let’s stop for one second.  Why does any firm choose to sell a particular product?  The answer is simple: because consumers are demanding it.  It’s not as if McDonald’s spontaneously decided that it would create a large number of unhealthy, affordable foods.  McDonald’s, like any successful firm, responded to market demand for food.  Americans have shown that they want fast, cheap, affordable food, with large portion sizes.  Nutritional information seems to be secondary.  Because of this, McDonald’s has given them fast, cheap, affordable food in large portion sizes.  Is it wrong that they responded to demand?

One argument against this is that fast food firms are “misleading” consumers, making them believe they are eating something healthy or healthy-esque when they are not.  This is false.  The majority of fast food restaurants I have been inside list nutritional facts in pamphlets or posters inside the restaurant.  If they don’t have it listed, you can request it from the company, or go online to NutritionData or a similar website to see exactly what the nutrition facts are.  The argument that consumers are being misled doesn’t really hold water – especially with the media attention fast food gets today.

Another argument is that fast food, like cigarettes, is addicting.  It is claimed that individuals can become addicted to eating fast food, similar to the fact that individuals can become addicted to smoking cigarettes.  It is true that individuals can become addicted to eating fast food.  But it’s also true that individuals can become addicted to anything.  I am addicted to running.  I love it, and when I don’t do it I get irritable and cranky.  This does not mean that running shoe manufacturers should be sued.  The difference in cigarettes is that nicotine creates an addiction beyond “natural” addictions that humans can develop towards a particular activity.  Thus, the addiction argument is weak.

One final argument against fast food is that humans are preconditioned to eat fatty foods, thus when lots of it is readily available to us, we can’t help ourselves but eat it frequently.  To this argument, one must also consider that humans have the ability to make rational choices that differ from our primal urges.  Sure, there is plenty of evidence that the human body likes to consume fatty foods to protect against starvation that occurred in humanity’s past.  However, the defining feature of a human is the ability to go beyond what our bodies urge us to do.  I’m fairly certain this rationality can encompass the decision to eat a healthy selection of foods.

It’s not simply fast food companies’ fault that obesity is rising in the US.  To try to place the blame for obesity on them, or a large percentage of it, is to do no more than creating a scapegoat. Fast food is different than tobacco. Smoking can do little but cause harm. Fast food actually has benefits if eaten occasionally, and only becomes dangerous in excess. The fast food industry should not be targeted as the main cause of obesity.

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22 Comments for We Can’t Blame Obesity on Fast Food

Shaniqua | November 7, 2006 at 10:50 am

Let’s stop for one second. Why does any firm choose to sell a particular product? The answer is simple: because consumers are demanding it. It’s not as if McDonald’s spontaneously decided that it would create a large number of unhealthy, affordable foods. McDonald’s, like any successful firm, responded to market demand for food. Americans have shown that they want fast, cheap, affordable food, with large portion sizes. Nutritional information seems to be secondary. Because of this, McDonald’s has given them fast, cheap, affordable food in large portion sizes. Is it wrong that they responded to demand?

George, you should save this and after 20 years maybe revisit it to see if the purpose of marketing may be to make products more appealing so as to sell more product.

The premise that consumers demand something and that’s why companies sell it misses the point that businesses sell product not because consumers demand it but because selling at a profit makes money for them. Once you have an infrastructure in place, the total effort is in maximizing margin. Obviously people want to buy the product for some reason; the question is what’s the reason, and are those reasons being actively manipulated to increase the margin. Margin is more significant than demand because you can’t make up losses on volume.

But what do I know. I’m just a lefty.

Don't diss on Ronald | November 22, 2006 at 6:04 pm

link

McDonald’s opens mini-gym

McDonald’s today will unveil a play gym for kids at a restaurant featuring stationary bikes, monkey bars, climbing ropes and a mini basketball court.

The burger giant said it will open 20 R-Gyms, named after mascot Ronald McDonald, in the next year as it continues to maintainthat its restaurants support healthy lifestyles.

Martha Magcasi, 34, said she normally “steers clear” of McDonald’s but decided to take her 3-year-old daughter to R-Gym after passing by the Edinger Avenue restaurant.

“Normally, we don’t give her junk food, but I figure she could come here and work off her meal,” said the Santa Ana mom.

Health and fitness experts said that’s fine, as long as parents do it in moderation.

McDonald’s argues it is already doing just that by offering children more choices such as apple dippers and low-fat milk as substitutes for fries and sodas in Happy Meals. It also offers yogurt and low-fat salads.

The gym is the physical extension of that healthy menu campaign, the company said.

Author comment by George | November 26, 2006 at 9:05 pm

Ha, that’s interesting. Hey, if McDonalds is going to open a mini-gym and try to make their menus healthier, then that’s great!

Ryan | February 9, 2007 at 9:07 am

You guy’s are cool. You’re helping me a lot with a debate project. I love you, in a good way.

Jordan | December 9, 2007 at 6:16 pm

I’m doing a dialectical in social 30 about whether fast food is at fault for obesity rates.thanks for the info guys.

Cam | March 18, 2008 at 2:24 am

The choice is easy… JUST SAY NO!

People need to realise that they have the CHOICE, its not the fast food industries fault. If you can’t control your eating habits, and that of your child’s, (and must I also add…. bad parenting…) the choice is easy, stay away from the FF!
I can already hear the obese people saying… but the ads on the TV make us want to eat their stuff..HERE’S news for you, ONCE AGAIN THE CHOICE IS YOURS, turn off that TV and do some exercise!
Cheers
Cam

-assumption leads to the downfall of society!

Anonymous | March 26, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I agree with whole thing. I feel that it’s the people who is eating it fought and they shouldn’t go crying for a case just they’re fat. That wrong. Do they think about others that eat fast food and are not fat. No, they think of themselves, they should go work and stop eating.

Nick | October 7, 2008 at 7:04 pm

George, i agree with you. i saw that “supersize me” movie that explained why mcdonalds doesn’t have the super size option anymore. I disagreed with the movie. two fat girls were whining that mcdonalds, quote- “forced us to eat their food.” Mcdonalds didn’t force anybody to eat their food. they didn’t say that if you didn’t eat their food they would hurt you. You made a choice to go and eat the food. Some people said that the commercials forced them into eating the food. Not true.
companies sell shoes and music, etc. but it doesn’t mean that they are forcing you to buy it. Other idiots said that they didn’t know that it was unhealthy. REALLY! THEY ARE THAT STUPID!! You don’t need a nutritional facts board to see that some things are unhealthy. Sometimes it just obvious just by looking at the food. Does a triple stacked burger half the size of your head with greasy bacon,plus greasy fries, along with somehting else that is just junk food look healthy!!? I think that humans, as in their nature, usually have a problem with blaming themsleves for the things they do. People always want to blame somebody else. in this case, these stupid fat people are trying to get people to pity and feel sorry for them. If somebody is fat because their parents never fed them the right things, it is partially the parents fault and partially the persons fault. If the person could have controlled the situation and said no, they would be fine. People say, “i don’t have the time to work out on the weekend.” That’s bull, because if somebody has the time to go to mcdonalds and eat, they can exercise too. And fat people really shouldn’t be complaining about tv commercials being persuasive. What are fat people doing watching tv a lot. they should be exercising outside. That’s all i have to say.

Jean | December 3, 2008 at 8:46 am

It s interesting to see how McD. is not equally successful in different countries. British still like to go to the pub for a fish and chips and McD. is not the N1 there, instead of France where McD. has successfully developped a range of healthy salads…

Marisa Perez | December 18, 2008 at 8:51 pm

we should not eat fast foods, they are messing up our health and it has to much grease and fatining that is causing diseases and that is also causes a disesase such as e.coli maybe you should be lokking in what you feed yoour kids and your family on night that is getting us all sick and messing up our body sytems

Devonte | April 9, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I definatly agree with George. People have a choice to do there own thing. The lifestyle we live and the choices we make often affect our appearence. If you chose not to brush your teeth then you might not have many later on in life. The media can advertise many things and make things look better than they are, however no one is busting down your door with a gun to your head saying “order the big mac.” Some people say that it’s kinda like that study with the dog and the bell. If you ring it and feed it everytime you ring it, then everytime you ring the bell the dog will salivate. That’s cool i guess if you want to compare your intelligence of that of a dog. Grow up people, iv’e only lived for 16 years and even i know that every action has a reaction and that people should take responsibility of that reaction. Also, the whole thing that George was talking about with the consumer demanding more quick and unhealthy fast food is true. Each day one in four Americans visits a fast food resturant. It’s called Supply and Demand America, Perhaps you’ve heard of it. :)

MIke | May 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

okay, well the fat people need to exersize!..
its not there fault that u want the SUPER SIZE of everything…. thres this thing called a SALAD…EAT IT!!! its not like u need BIG MACs…JEEEZ =]]…
b/c i eat fast food and im frickin skinny…..:)

emily | December 7, 2009 at 12:56 pm

i totally agree b?c everyone has their own power 2 choose things.if they choose the wrong ones,thts their fault.everyone has the will power bt the just dont know how 2 use it.no one forces you 2 do anything you dont want 2 do.

Steve | January 31, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Fast food restaurants are what are known in addiction circles as “enablers.” Other’s are making the poor choices, however the enablers make it so much easier for them, and thus, share the blame for the addicts horrible decisions.

And yes, Americans are addicted to fast food. Check McDonald’s annual report if you disagree.

Enabler? | January 31, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I am an enabler for someone who wants to commit murder. My existence makes it easier for someone to commit murder, because I am one more person who can be killed.

If you think the above statement is false, what distinguishes me from a fast food restaurant?

Megan | April 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Your whole thing is wrong. If you would watch the movie Super Size Me and read the book Don’t Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America, you would get real facts about what McDonalds and other fast food restaurants do to make you eat their and make you think about how “healthy” their food is.

Also this is helping me with the counterargument part of this paper I have to write about how fast food is causing obesity.

Raegan | April 21, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I watched the movie Super Size and yes it gives the real facts about fast food but he had a choice to eat McDonalds. McDonalds is not holding a gun to your head making you eat their food. Its called self control. If people had it they would not eat fast food. They would be exercising and eatting healthy. McDonalds has a salad. People should eat that instead of the Big Mac. I also saw no evidence that McDonalds is “healthy”. I wouldn’t think a greasy burger with greasy fries and a large coke to wash it down would be considered heathy. Why would anyone else?

abdullah | July 13, 2011 at 6:14 am

the main reason for most people blaming fast food cooperation is because the don’t have self control over them selfs and many individuals could prohibit their children and them selfs from things that would harm them and even if they eat they are able to exercise and every thing would be in a regular order.

Ryan | September 27, 2011 at 8:42 pm

very true 100 percent agree everything ive read from everyones comments i basically my views to haha but thanks for extra opions this is going to help me alot with my argument paper

c | October 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Obviously the people who say the fast food chains are not to blame are the obese ones.

Katie | March 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm

This is totally awesome, thank you! I have to write a small paper for debate on this, and this article is perfect.

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