Major food companies targeting low income communities more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles

A new report has found that major food processors are targeting low and middle income areas with their unhealthy products, armed with the knowledge that consumption of unhealthy foods is higher in amongst those societal groups.

"There is significant penetration by multinational processed food manufacturers such as Nestle, Kraft, PepsiCo, and Danone into food environments in low-and-middle income countries, where consumption of unhealthy commodities is reaching—and in some cases exceeding—a level presently observed in high income countries", international researchers wrote in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Led by David Stuckler from the Univiversity of Cambridge, the authors from the UK, US and India analysed trends in unhealthy food and beverages, including sugary drinks and processed foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar, alcohol, and tobacco between 1997 and 2010 and forecasted to 2016.

They discovered that not only is the rate of consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks growing faster in low to middle income communities, it is also growing faster than any high-income market in history.

In April a US study found conclusive evidence that where a child lives has a significant impact on their chances of being obese.

A neighbourhood’s good walkability, proximity to high quality parks, and access to healthy food can lower the chances of being obese by almost 60 per cent, the study found.

Then last month a new Australia-wide study found that people living in rural areas are more likely to consume alcohol and be overweight and obese.

The researchers of the latest study also found that higher intake of unhealthy foods correlates strongly with higher tobacco and alcohol sales.

They believe the global rise of transnational food and drink companies penetrating these areas more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles is a deliberate and dangerous move.

"Until health practitioners, researchers, and politicians are able to understand and identify feasible ways to address the social, economic, and political conditions that lead to the spread of unhealthy food, beverage, and tobacco commodities, progress in areas of prevention and control of non-communicable diseases will remain elusive."

Earlier this month a new study found 95 per cent of Australian children over two exceeded their recommended intake of saturated fat.

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