Conflict of Interest: The cause of the Obesity Epidemic?
Finally it just boils down to profits, that’s all there is to it. It is ironical that the very industry, intrinsic to our well-being should be the cause of the obesity epidemic under which much of the industrialised world is reeling. Food is big business, with billions of pounds spent on mass production and advertising. It is no wonder then that our profit driven economy uses any means to achieve its ends – sometimes blatantly and sometimes even under the garb of “health concerns”! It is equally amazing how we don’t notice the obvious and nonchalant promotion of corporate self-interests by the food industry at the cost of public health and nutrition.
It’s like a subtle but powerful brainwashing that is controlling people’s food preferences. The industry has cleverly exploited the irresistible attraction that we have for sugary and processed foods which are cheap to manufacture in huge quantities. Modern research has shown how these foods, loaded with processed salt and sugar, are in fact as addictive as narcotics and get us craving for more. That’s the very goal of the industry – to make people consume more junk food, turning a blind eye to all their ill-effects.
Artificial and unnatural flavours and vested interests
There is nothing real or natural anymore about the food we eat – all the smells and flavours are artificially created, to trick our brains into grabbing more and bringing on a host of health issues like hypertension, diabetes and obesity that have become typical of the modern age. To add to the woes, it is the corporate shielding government policies that are fuelling the conflicting interests between a callous profit hungry industry and the social, environmental and nutritional welfare of the general populace.
It is their enormous financial and political clout that corporations and government agencies leverage to have policies formulated in their favour which succeed in diverting attention from all the controversial issues. The truth about how these foods are produced and such other relevant information is smartly hidden and it’s those billions of pounds that are responsible for the vested interests of the government and the corporations alike. We are fooled into thinking that we know enough about what we eat just by providing inconsequential and vague details about the calorific value of the packaged product which conceals all those added ingredients under the label “artificial colours and flavours”.
The easiest targets are young children and billions of pounds are spent in marketing junk foods in an attractive way that especially appeals to their sensibilities. The huge budgets involved have ensured that these products permeate into every sphere of our existence – schools, entertainment channels and media – making it impossible to ignore its temptation. The strategy employed by corporations like McDonald’s, Coca Cola and several other fast food chains is to create campaigns that slowly but surely blend these foods into our very culture, eroding the tradition of fresh, healthy home cooked meals that were once the normal way of life. McDonalds run advertisements daily insinuating that they are part of the very fabric of daily life and that going there for a happy meal will solve arguments, rebuild broken families, form life long relationships and bring long term happiness when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Being an immensely cut throat, competitive business, companies vie to come up with the most original ideas and to maximise their presence on billboards in an attempt to sway opinion. What’s most ironical is that they even feign concern for public health by introducing “healthy” versions of their unhealthy products like diet coke, or McDonald’s adding apple slices to burgers or Kraft selling whole grain chips. This is nothing but a pretty ploy to increase their sales by pretending that they have a solution to the growing health problems of our times. It is indeed laughable for Coca Cola to say that the reason for the obesity epidemic is lack of exercise which is why it is now offering the diet version of the cola to “help” people get back into shape!
So what’s the solution?
That is a difficult question to answer as the main purpose of a corporation is to create profits and this remains the priority over all else – even health and nutrition. What is required is a shift in government policies towards those that safeguard health and promote the environment. There should be greater transparency in the information provided by fast food companies and stricter regulations for corporate behaviour by enforcing restrictions on marketing to children.
Have we and our highly capitalistic society really succeeded in the true sense of the word? Or have we only created a conscienceless economy driven only by greed that shows utter disregard for the good of the society at large? Maybe it’s time to sit back, ease the breakneck pace at which we are leading our lives and have a rethink on our priorities and where we want to see ourselves a few decades from today but for now, it feels very much like the tail is wagging the dog.