In what would seem to be some sort of early April Fool's joke, the UK Department of Health has actually invited companies including McDonald's, KFC, PepsiCo, Kellogg's, and Mars, to write health policies designed to address obesity, alcohol abuse, and diet-related diseases in Britain. The health risks often associated with consuming foods and beverages distributed by these very companies, er, policy contributors, have spiraled the country's obesity rate to nearly two-thirds of the population.
In 2009, these mega junk food brands spent more than $4 billion in advertising foods that are known health risks. McDonald's and Burger King had actually promised to decrease ads targeted to children, but their numbers went up by 10 to 20 percent in recent years.
With an alarming number of Britons reportedly overweight, the costs of managing the health problems associated with obesity related illnesses are straining an already stressed economy, which may be some of the reason well-funded brands have been invited to assist in writing these policies.
So far, the companies have been invited to craft a list of priorities and what they call "barriers"—including EU legislation—that would need to be removed in order to help approach the growing waistlines of the Monarchy.
While taxing or increasing the price of dangerous foods and alcohol have already been ruled out, there is much speculation on what will actually be done by these companies with vested interest in increased product consumption. Speaking to The Guardian, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, recent president of the Royal College of Physicians and a liver specialist expressed concern over the voluntary partnership with the industry causing the problems. "On food labeling we have listened too much to the supermarkets rather than going for traffic lights [warnings] which health experts recommend."
With Britain's beloved Jamie Oliver spending most of his time educating American schools on proper nutrition, and financial struggles dominating the attention of UK citizens, it's not surprising that America's Junk Food Nation has been given such power. While top level officials deny they are giving power to big industry, but rather working with them to tackle the health issues, the real proof will be in the low-sodium, fat-free Yorkshire pudding.
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Photo by C. G. P. Grey courtesy of Creative Commons