Food companies are pushing unhealthy food into new markets in poor countries
The big food companies are forcefully pushing into the markets of developing and emerging countries. The result is a massive increase in the consumption of unhealthy foods, such as soft drinks or products that are high in salt, fat and sugar, in countries with low and middle-mean incomes.
The spread of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in developing and emerging countries is correspondingly increasing, reports the research team led by David Stuckler from the Institute of Sociology at the University of Cambridge in the specialist magazine "PLoS Medicine". Up to now, the increasing income of the population has been seen as a major factor in the consumption of unhealthy food, but the study by the international research team led by David Stuckler shows that the sales strategies of the food companies play a much larger role here.
Consumption of unhealthy food checked on the basis of the sales data Based on the available sales data from 1997 to 2010 for the unhealthy food, beverages and tobacco, the British, Indian and US researchers determined the spread of the potentially harmful products. "The data includes both the per capita volume for packaged foods, including snacks, snacks, ice cream, oils and fats, processed frozen foods, dried processed foods, canned goods, non-alcoholic drinks, hot drinks and ready meals," the scientists explained in the " PLoS Medicine "article. The researchers also considered data on retail sales of alcohol and tobacco. For the future, too, an outlook on the development could be shown based on the sales forecasts up to 2016.
Multinational corporations are pushing into the food markets of developing countries When evaluating the data, the researchers found that the sale of unhealthy food in the countries with low and middle income per capita is growing much faster than in the industrialized nations. According to the researchers, the growth rates in the consumption of unhealthy food are often significantly higher than was previously the case in the industrialized nations. However, it is not the growing prosperity that is the cause of this development, but the strategy of the large food companies. "Multinational companies have now penetrated food markets in middle-income countries", which is similar to that in high-income countries, write Stuckler and colleagues. With the massive sales of unhealthy foods, the risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular complaints also increases, the researchers report. There is also a strong correlation between the consumption of unhealthy food and tobacco or alcohol consumption, "which suggests a series of common tactics" by the producers of unhealthy products, the international research team continued. With the large food companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, Kraft, Pepsi or Danone, the massive presence on site is decisive for the increase in sales. The income of the population only plays a subordinate role here, Stuckler and colleagues explained.
Rising consumption of unhealthy food not the result of economic growth The researchers demonstrated using Mexico and Venezuela that income development and the consumption of unhealthy food are not directly related. In Mexico, following the conclusion of a free trade agreement with the United States, the consumption of sugary soft drinks increased massively and is now 300 liters per capita per year. This was associated with a significant increase in weight problems among the population and today, according to the researchers, Mexico is the developing country with the highest proportion of overweight children. Venezuela, on the other hand, has not concluded a corresponding free trade agreement and the consumption of unhealthy soft drinks has remained constant since the 1990s, even though the country has an income trend comparable to that of Mexico. In other words: If the borders are opened for the big food companies, they push into the market and the consumption of unhealthy food increases. So far, the consumption of unhealthy products has always been seen in connection with the development of income, but this is actually much more connected with "foreign direct investment and free trade agreements", write Stuckler and colleagues. However, economic growth does not necessarily lead to higher consumption of unhealthy food.
Food companies urged to act responsibly For the health of the population in developing and emerging countries, the strategy of the large food companies poses a considerable risk, especially since the information about the negative consequences of eating particularly fatty, salty or sweet products is far less known here than in the industrialized nations. Here, the corporations are asked to act responsibly and should significantly reduce the salt, sugar and fat content of their products, according to the experts. Although companies are quite ready to take such steps, they are usually not implemented in developing and emerging countries, criticized Stuckler and colleagues. (fp)
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