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Food Addiction

Michael Moss's article The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food reveals the efforts of the American food industry to exploit the weakness of consumers:

So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control? It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.
...
While at Frito-Lay, Lin and other company scientists spoke openly about the country’s excessive consumption of sodium and the fact that, as Lin said to me on more than one occasion, “people get addicted to salt.”
Not much had changed by 1986, except Frito-Lay found itself on a rare cold streak. ... Around that time, the marketing team was joined by Dwight Riskey, an expert on cravings who had been a fellow at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, where he was part of a team of scientists that found that people could beat their salt habits simply by refraining from salty foods long enough for their taste buds to return to a normal level of sensitivity.
...
The researchers parsed the data by the caloric content of the foods being eaten, and found the top contributors to weight gain included red meat and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages and potatoes, including mashed and French fries. But the largest weight-inducing food was the potato chip. The coating of salt, the fat content that rewards the brain with instant feelings of pleasure, the sugar that exists not as an additive but in the starch of the potato itself — all of this combines to make it the perfect addictive food.
- The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, Michael Moss, New York Times Magazine, Feb. 20, 2013

For additional details see the article, or for a more in-depth look, read Moss's book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.


...Akerlof cited research showing that capuchin monkeys will eat sweet roll-up tacos with marshmallow fluff until they get anxious and sick. He suggested the megacaloric Cinnabon is the equivalent temptation for humans. “People have two types of taste—what is good for them and what they choose,” he said. “We all have monkeys on our shoulder when we make economic decisions, and somebody is going to be there to sell you a Cinnabon.”
- Sam Zuckerman, An Intellectual Revolution, BerkeleyHaas (The Magazine of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley), Summer 2017, p. 11


Ghana, a coastal African country of more than 28 million still etched with pockets of extreme poverty, has enjoyed unprecedented national prosperity in the last decade.... ...the signs of new fortune are evident: millions moving to cities for jobs, shopping malls popping up and fast food roaring in to greet people hungry for a contemporary lifestyle.

Chief among the corporate players is KFC, and its parent company, YUM!.... The company brings the flavors that have made it popular in the West, seasoned with an intangible: the symbolic association of fast food with rich nations.
But KFC’s expansion here comes as obesity and related health problems have been surging. Public health officials see fried chicken, french fries and pizza as spurring and intensifying a global obesity epidemic that has hit hard in Ghana — one of 73 countries where obesity has at least doubled since 1980. In that period, Ghana’s obesity rates have surged more than 650 percent.... ...
In Ghana, data suggest the changing diet to heavier fare — including fast food but also processed foods — has led to soaring health risks. ...
Still, Mr. Edwards said he comes to KFC almost every day, beckoned by a giant red billboard outside the store with a huge photo of crispy fried chicken and shimmering golden fries.

“You become addicted to the spices,” he said. “That’s why everybody wants to have it.”

“They don’t force us to eat here,” he added, “But it’s as if we’ve become mentally enslaved.
- DIONNE SEARCEY and MATT RICHTEL, Obesity Was Rising as Ghana Embraced Fast Food. Then Came KFC., NYT, OCT. 2, 2017


Urged on by big American food and soft-drink companies, the Trump administration is using the trade talks with Mexico and Canada to try to limit the ability of the pact’s three members — including the United States — to warn consumers about the dangers of junk food, according to confidential documents outlining the American position.
- Azam Ahmed, Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs, In Nafta Talks, U.S. Tries to Limit Junk Food Warning Labels, NYT, March 20, 2018


A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.
- Andrew Jacobs, U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials, NYT, July 8, 2018


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