We all know that diabetes, obesity, and heart disease rates are soaring in developed countries. One major cause is related to the high consumption of processed foods and lack of physical activity. What you perhaps don’t know is the fact that multinational corporations are finding new ways of selling processed food to the poor.
As affluent western markets reach their saturation point, global food and drink firms like Nestle, Unilever, SABMiller, and Coca-Cola have been opening up new frontiers among people living on $2 a day in low- and middle-income countries. The world’s poor have become their vehicle for growth.
To achieve their business objectives, they deploy innovative strategies to target and reach the poor, even in the most remote areas. One of their slogans emphasizes the fact that they bring the kind of choices that the rich have enjoyed for years. Who can resist this argument when we know the attraction of the American and European lifestyle amongst people living in developing countries. We know that highly processed food and drink are a vector for related lifestyle diseases in the USA and Europe; the impact will be more dramatic in developing countries.
As diets and lifestyles in developing countries change, their patterns of disease are following those seen in industrialized countries just as quickly. But for poor countries there is a double whammy: they will be faced with the non-communicable disease that result from caloric over-consumption before they can deal with hunger and malnutrition. The double burden is having a devastating impact on both economic growth and health care budgets.
Are food producers moving developing countries toward a model of society where the hole in one’s belly is filled with cheap, low-nutrient, empty-calorie foods to satisfy one’s hunger while neglecting to meet the body’s long-term nutritional needs?
In the food market, is the appeal of fortified foods greater to the consumers than fresh food?
Are human lives worthy of disregard in the pursuit of profit?
To read more about this important issue through the example of South Africa and the radical action plans that must be put in place, go to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/nov/23/corporate-giants-target-developing-countries
To create positive changes within the current food system we must value tradition and culture around food, emphasize diversity in food, and see cooking as culinary art. This mission of change needs to start at the school level with the young generation.
CKi is taking steps in this direction.