Health Risks Loom As Fast Food Sales Increase In Asia

The huge growth in sales of fast food and drinks has major health implications for people in Asia, researchers say.

AsianScientist (Feb. 27, 2017) – Asia-Pacific is at a risk of poor nutrition as modern trade policy opens the region to a flood of ultra-processed food and drinks, according to a study published in Globalization and Health.

In a study of sales and company data from transnational food and beverage companies, researchers have found that in China, expenditure on food services such as companies like KFC and McDonald’s, increased eighteen-fold from US$1.90 per person in 1999 to US$34.80 per person in 2013.

The Coca-Cola Company alone had sales in 2013 of more than US$16 billion in the Asian region, or 18 percent of their world sales.

“It is a health disaster waiting to happen. Companies are focusing their efforts in Asia because of the large market opportunities and growth in consumption that has still to happen,” said study co-author Sharon Friel, a professor at the Australian National University.

“Many countries, particularly lower-middle income ones, are having increasing issues with diet related diseases such as cardio-vascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.”

Friel called for stronger health regulations across the region, including in Australia.

“We need to start looking at policies that mitigate the health risks of these types of products,” Friel said. “We need to look at introducing a tax on sugary drinks.”

Investment by food and beverage companies is facilitated by trade and investment agreements. Friel also called on governments to think about the trade and investment agreements they are signing, what they will mean for domestic health policy, and how they can protect human health.

The article can be found at: Baker and Friel (2016) Food Systems Transformations, Ultra-processed Food Markets and the Nutrition Transition in Asia.


Source: Australian National University; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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