Food choices are wide and varied, supposedly catering for all walks of life and all budgets. But there-in lies one of the biggest problems because the cheapest food available is often the least healthy and it is the poverty stricken who rely on those low priced foods to survive.
Mass produced junk food is the supermarket equivalent of the scraps bottom feeders thrive on in ponds, rivers and oceans, and it is those foods which are among the highest contributors to obesity because they use cheap ingredients and are high in sugar and flavouring additives.
While changes in lifestyle including more exercise and shifting from ready made food to home-made dishes using fruit and vegetables have been advocated by health authorities as a way of combating the growing obesity pandemic, it isn’t that simple for people who work long hours and still earn very little money.
According to a Canadian report obesity is costing the country between $4.6bn and $7.1bn a year with costs spread between direct health care costs and hidden health care costs caused by loss of industry to illness or unemployment due to discrimination.
The report also states that 15% of women and 17% of men are now considered obese (they have a Body Mass Index over 30 which means that over 30% of the their body weight is made of fat). On top of that 9.3% of deaths in Canada are now attributed to obesity.
One case in the film Food Inc. highlighted the difficulties a family of Mexicans faced on a daily basis. The parents worked 12 or more hours per day and only scraped minimum wage with which they had to support their two children. Their cheapest food options were meal deals from Mcdonalds which of course meant that they were consuming high levels of sugar, MSG and white flour goods, as well as meat high in unhealthy nitrates.
The family explained that it was cheaper to buy a few cheeseburgers and fries than wholesome vegetables from their local store.
When faced with those conditions, as many people are, the fight against obesity becomes a lot harder for them. Many low paid jobs involve staying in the same seat all day with little chance to exercise and the long hours mean that spare time is reserved for rest in order to make it through the next day.
Clearly changes need to be made in the way food is produced and governments need to crack down on unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrant workers. One major meat supplier in the US shipped in workers from Mexico to process animals in a slaughterhouse. They gave them accommodation and the promise of US citizenship. After several years of employment they were deported, having been paid cash in hand below the minimum wage level.
This kind of exploitation needs to be stopped as it not only promotes the growth of obesity which costs the state in health care but also deprives the state of vital tax money while allowing major companies to amass huge profits that never come back to the people.
Bills like the s510 have made it harder for organic farmers to compete with mass, GM producing suppliers which means that the good stuff costs more than it should because the farmers are having to pay extortionate prices for licenses and stringent but unnecessary inspections.
The war against obesity is in full swing and made harder by the culture of denial that surrounds its causes. As with AIDS in the 1980’s and 1990’s, good education is key to changing the way people live and make decisions.
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