Monday, April 26, 2010


The recent reports about the influence of hooking on to the habit of consuming "fast foods" regularly on human behavior is indeed disturbing. While the so called fast food preparations served by some of the largest corporate food service organizations in the world have been blamed for over weight and obesity and associated health disorders, no one has raised the potential of such foods on influencing the behavior of people in the society. Fast foods present a dilemma to the nutritionists, health experts and national governments in many countries because of their stranglehold on the consumers and the nutritional imbalance inherent in most of these processed foods. Most fast foods are supposed to contain high calories contributed by sugar and fat with practically no useful essential nutrients, attracting world-wide criticism and demand for their regulation.

Why sugar and fat are blamed while the willing consumer is spared the criticism defies logic. While children need to be guided and mentored up to a certain age regarding right combination of foods to be consumed till attaining adulthood, normal adults are considered responsible members of the society requiring to use their intelligence, wisdom and experience to follow scientifically sound eating habits for maintaining their health. Individual freedom and responsibility go hand in hand and irresponsible attitude towards food, alcohol or tobacco is a burden on the society for which counseling and treatment may be required. Food industry is blindly blamed for the "bad" foods being offered to the consumer ignoring the fact that any business is bound to survive only if the market demand is met fully as consumer is considered the "king". Where the industry really deserves a rap on their knuckles is misrepresenting scientific facts, distorting truth, excessive promotion of "bad" foods and not providing healthy options to those who are willing to try.

Fast foods need not be always unhealthy and there are healthy foods catered by some vendors with balanced nutrients in them but the mode of serving can be similar to a McDonald or Wendy's. For example most of the foods catered to by the Mexican food catering chain Taco Bell, though a fast food restaurant player with franchisee net work all over the world, are considered generally healthy. Not being a regular restaurant, the foods are served fast with turn over time of less than 5 minutes for executing the order. Same is true with the Subway chain which serves its 6" and 12" subs with a variety of vegetables, cheese and meat, considered nutritious by any standards. Same cannot be said about the dhabas and other fast food outlets that operate in India offering fat rich products of doubtful health value. As there is no control over the quality of oil used the food preparations may not agree with many patrons if consumed more frequently.

The findings by the Canadian scientists that regular exposure to fast foods can condition the mindset of the consumer vis-à-vis "instant gratification" and practically in every endeavor such people undertake such "time efficiency" is anticipated bordering on "impatience". They also found that uncontrolled eating in such places creates further craving for food and suppress the natural impulse for saving money. This is a socio-economic-physiological-psychological phenomenon with potential for spreading fast in the community which has access to easy to reach fast food outlets. Is the world facing a daunting situation where people are becoming increasingly impatient and at times becoming aggressive because of lack of instant gratification? Can it be that fast foods condition the brain to look for all things that can save time in every activity of such individuals depending on fast foods?

In India we see a different scenario where most people are in a hurry the moment they leave their home for completing all their personal work while patience of epic proportion can be perceptible at the workplace! A significant segment of the population wants to jump a queue, if possible to get preferential service while "influence peddling" to get out of turn service is the rule rather than exception. Even for getting darshan in reputed temples like Sabarimala, Titrupati, Guruvayur etc the devotees look out for influential officials and agents for "instant" darshan without wasting time in the queue meant for the "cattle class", as described by the just resigned GOI minister, meaning the "aam admi"! The Indian experience does not prove the fast food-impatience connection as reported above because fast food consumption is abysmally low in the country. More probable factor could be the "environment", education system and the societal "values" that condone such attitudes and behavior in the public


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Definitely agree that we should eat less fast food as a country. I think the biggest reason most of us resort to fast food places like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and the likes is that we don't have time to get food anywhere else. There is a solution, though! Food Trucks! Food trucks serve better food, serve MUCH healthier food, at a cheaper price, and are just as quick getting the food to you. For those of you who have negative preconceptions of food trucks, give them a try, I bet you're pleased. Oh, and for fellow New Yorkers, check out, NYC's new online ordering site that allows users to place orders for pick up from food trucks, saving even MORE time and saving you from standing on line! Enjoy, ladies and gentlemen, and stay away from all those nasty "burgers" and "fries."