Monday, 22 March 2010

Kill the killjoys

Pepsico will announce today that it will cut levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats in its top-selling products by a quarter during the coming decade amid rising pressure from governments to encourage healthier eating. At the same time it will be increasing whole grain, fruit, vegetable, nut, seed and low-fat dairy content. Other food companies are all doing the same thing, bowing down to a variety of pressure groups – governments, WHO and a sundry assortment of noise makers.

All food companies live in mortal terror of getting sued. McDonalds is the one that is most vulnerable – that’s why it is falling over itself to offer “healthy options”. This is to give Joe Public the perverse satisfaction of ordering a Big Mac and a Diet Coke !

Some obese overweight individual is going to win $100m from some food company – its only a matter of time. It’s a question of when, not if.

Can my voice be heard in this cacophony please. I do not want a healthy alternative – when I want that I will go elsewhere. When I buy a Pepsi, I want a sugary fizzy drink. When I open a packet of Lays, I want greasy wonderfully tasting chips. When I go to McDonalds, I want a Big Mac (no beef please), Large fries and a Coke. I don’t want some self appointed nanny to tell me what I should eat.

My body and my eating is my own responsibility. I have enough information in the world as to what is good and what is not. I don’t want more labeling – as it is, I can’t read the fine print any more; labels are increasingly like legal documents and not an information source. I will decide how healthy I want to be. I am adult enough to know how much of what food to eat. Most times, I will eat nutritious and good food. But sometimes I want to eat something that’s fun; and it doesn’t matter if its not loaded with the milk of human kindness.

People do not need nannying. The whingers who claim to have been misled into obesity are just that – whingers. Nobody forced them to eat like a pig. And those trying to make a case against food companies are simply gold diggers.

Can somebody tell me the difference between these lot and the Taliban ? The Taliban do not want music, TV, films, etc to “corrupt the mind”. The anti obesity lot are no different – they are equal killjoys. Can they mind their own business and leave us alone, please.


zeno said...

So true. That is how a pepsi and a lays should taste. I prefer packeted lays to the "in front of my face freshly hygienecally prepared" potato chips!

The argument is too good and i felt this could be applied even to "Cigarettes, Alcohols and Drugs"

Durga said...

Thats's so true. Why do we need people to tell us what is good, what is bad, what is right and what is wrong? From where did these "moral" crusaders spring up from? Who gave them the rights to enforce their opinions on others? A similar issue cropped up few years ago relating to the usage of Monosodium Glutamate, commonly known as aji-no-moto in the preparation of the chicken deilcacies of KFC. After so much hue and cry, people still flock to KFC like never before. Does that mean people are stupid? Not at all. People are sensible enough to understand that gorging on a KFC Chicken burger once in a while will really not lead them to suffer from asthma or heart ailments. Much ado about nothing. Phew!

gils said...

//Can somebody tell me the difference between these lot and the Taliban ? //

ROTFL :D :Dthe ultimate foodie comment :D :D taliban doesnt play ad every single second with tastier looking "sky-high in carbs" diet. these ads kill more people than their bullets. ungala vida naaku enaku romba neelanga..still someone shd reign in these folks from enticing poor naaku sethu pona people like me into obese oblivion. naan control paniturunthalum tvla cheese burst pizzaa ad paatha order panna thaan thonuthu :(

Preeti Shenoy said...

For a complete understanding of this issue one needs to study the consumption figures of 'junk food' and correlate it with data on growing obesity especially among children. 22 million of world's children under the age of 5 are already obese! 300 million people worldwide are obese. 750 million people are overweight.
Consumption of junk food has increased dramatically in the past few years, mostly due to massive advertising campaigns aimed so cleverly at children and teens and young people.(how cool is that--Akshay doing all those stunts Matrix style with that thums up in his hand)
In schools and college cafeterias it is hard for a children to not succumb to buying sugary fizzy drinks. Given an option which child will not want pepsi/burger and will opt for a 'health meal' instead?!
Your theory that you mention here in this post applied to adults, works fine.
But I think majority of the consumers of these products are children or those in their early twenties.(as concepts like 'choices in healthy eating' sounds like some gibberish flouted by old fogies at that age)
I see your point about companies living in mortal terror and 'talibanisation' od food choices.
However given the twitter, FB and even FBS kids generation (facebook fo kids under 10 can u imagine?!), this might not be as terrible an option, as it seems on the face of it, after all.
BTW many schools in India have banned fizzy drinks on their campuses. If sugar levels are cut, and 'healthier' options are made available, they fizzy drinks might make a comeback to school campuses too and who knows sales might sky rocket.

This isn't the opinion of some 'business expert'-- just the humble opinion of a concerned mom :-)


Ramesh said...

@zeno - Yes, the same argument can be extended to say drugs, but there is a difference; in case of alcohol or drugs. people who consume in excess are a danger to others. Therefore society has a right to stop that.

@Durga - Share your view that people must be left to be individually responsible for what they are

@gils - Oye gilsu - isn't ad time meant to be coffee/ bio break/ time. Stop watching those ads; especially those with pretty damsels. I thought you only watched movies ???

@Preeti - I have zero sympathy with adults who are obese and complain (I suppose since we both are part of the thin brigade, we can say that !!). But I fully see your point regarding children. That is a real issue. Advertising enticing children are a big problem (unlike those enticing gils :))There's no substitute for parental care, instilling of values and such old world stuff - there are so many such risks that today's children face that its impossible to eliminate them all. But I see your point and much obliged for such a considered and perceptive comment. And YOU ARE AN EXPERT :)

ambulisamma said...

Neenga ellam sevikku unavilladha pozhuthu vayiturukkum eiyapadum type pola irukku and naakku also neelam types,so you may encourage lays n fizzy stuff,but how can you call us (unave utra thozhan type) as pigs,afterall we too want to enjoy them but with goodness added(junk minimized).
As preethi says kids are the victim of these and i see 1.5 year old loving lays and aerated drinks,when in india,i found almost all kids eat lays,cheetos,kurkure etc., in a good measure.Being the victim of junk food i have never introduced any junk or even planning to do so ,my only fear is when going to india she cud very well learn them
They dont add any value or nutrition to growing kids,but for empty calories and a addiction is developed,i cant even think ambuli trying all those.

Sandhya Sriram said...

i completely second Preeti. and the list includes erstwhile children (ie some few decades back) like me who find it impossible to sustain the temptation of a yummy tasty burger with french fries and coke and wow - my mouth is already watering.... and being already overweight by ...... well lets keeps the maths aside - i think ppl like me should be forced to stop eating to stop eating :-)

according to me, the problem is not the choice of the individual but in a country of such magnitude, is there complete awareness of the harmful effects is by itself a big question. keeping the more obvious options aside, coming to think of lesser understood options like Noodles, Pastas which are projected as some great nutritional supplements, i dont feel it is wrong in putting a health filter on these products which proclaim to be healthy options. but well a line is to be drawn.

maybe a middle option could be a colour coding - a green colour is like completely safe. an amber is with some risks and red is a high risk. but ofcourse that would be subjective - but better than a ban i presume

Adesh Sidhu said...

What a point of view!!! I am impressed as you have challenged this fad. I was reading in newspaper today that there are very few takers for these so called 'health foods' and companies are struggling to sell them. Maybe this is new ploy to push some there slow moving products.

Srivats said...

Hey Ramesh

That makes a intersting read, but i beg to differ with your views regarding having healthy option, I agree to most of what preeti said here, plus I myself was involved in a analysis of the junk food aimed towards children, remember they are the future of us . The advert shows a children team which lost a foot ball match to children from differnt school, then the disapointed guy opens up mcd and everyone who won gets jealous through the cup! and runs down to get the burger! Do I even have to tell u the moral of this story ? if u lose eat junk!

All this WHO and ppl who make noise do so for a reason. I have attended a fair trade seminar last week thats about promoting fair trade, somewhere near bangalore a famous sarbath and juice junction was xclosed down due to sanitory violation , and in that place in the contaminated water pepsi company hAs setup and producing pepsi for the whole city!!! And ppl are drinking it like some kind of amrit!

I am not here to say dont eat cheeburger and fries, please I too want to have them. But I want to have options to choose healthy food even if I am dining in Mcd with my friends. And thats I suppose is what we need at the end of the day.

Srivats said...

On a dfferent note How have you been my friend ?

kiwibloke said...

"And what is good Phaedrus, and what is not, need we ask anyone tell us these things?"
I rest my case with a quote

Ramesh said...

@ambulisamma - Agree, the kids targetting issue is a live one.

@Sandhya - For once, I disagree. There's already enough info on what is healthy and what is not. After that its personal responsibility. If you get tempted - go ahead and have it; after all you only live once :)

@Adesh - There's quite a market for health foods. Where there is no market is if they do gimmicky things, like add a drop of Vitamin to a Pepsi and claim its nutritious.

@Sri - Agree that targetting of children is an issue. But outside of that I am not convinced that we need healthy options in a fast food joint. Doing OK my friend - glad to see you back

@kiwi - Amen.

Anonymous said...

When I read the first few sentences I thought what a great thing for Pepsico to do... then I read your argument. You convinced me!! Your right, we should have these options and its not much different then being under some dicatatorial control. Lol, seriously, I will never look at this issue the same way again after reading your take on it.

LEB said...

Well said Ramesh.Every day ...every other minute that you look at your TV you will see on any channel at any given time of the day ....commercials about healthier alternatives. The obsession with anti obesity is out of bounds and not enjoying what you eat is the in thing. Only in the US will you find people eating salads and washing them down with diet cokes. Empty calories ...galore !!

RamMmm said...

Add one more to the 'I disagree' crowd (well, there is one here!). When I first saw this post, thought it was sarcasm. :-) Now with comments in, it doesn't seem to be. :-( Have you seen the documentary, "Super Size Me" that came a few years back. That was pretty scary and interesting. Look at school kids these days and their cafetarias. Whom shall I blame, the school or the cafetarias for stocking junk food? Well, in Pizza Huts here, they have started salads and pastas (both yum and not cheesed out) and I choose that over cheesy Pizzas and the kids are getting interested in that too. :-)

Vishal said...

You are absolutely spot on. Great angle provided to the clamours of "eat healthy only". Very true that when I want to eat Maggi, I want to indulge in that delicious mouth-watering taste irrespective of how it will affect my digestion system. I do want to eat those chats and bhels in their original taste.

It is a consumer's choice to eat or drink. One can provide as many descriptions as choose to. Ultimately, it does not stop a obese from indulging in those rich foods.

For God sake, please do not teach me that excess of fat in bad for health. Each one of us have read and understood several times.

P.S. - As an employee of competitor of the company referred by you, I always face some silly questions from people around me on this topic especially. Thanks for providing another perspective which bolsters my case. :D :)

Ramesh said...

@Hopfrog - Honoured to have you stop by and leave a comment. Absolutely flattered that you buy my line.

@Blogueur - This guilt thing that is underlying many of this is not a good thing .....

@RamMmm - Glad to see you heartily disagree. Thats the only way this forum can be stimulating. I see that we have almost a 50/50 split. Well, given that I am pencil thin in real life, I would take the stand I have taken, wouldn't I :)

@Vishal - Ahh, the man from the industry itself. I guess you guys are also doing something similar - you really cannot afford not to !

Deepa said...

I can't agree more. Firstly, on a macro level, about someone moral policing a perfectly adequately informed adult chosing to do something. Secondly, on micro level about food. I am the freak who orders ONLY Classic coke, extra cheese on burger, coffee with cream and 6 satchets of sugar. And I am allergic to anything which says 'Diet' on the label.

The obese may want to beat people like you and me to death over this blatant blasphemy, but the problem is not about what someone is giving you to eat. The problem is you lift it from the counter, pay for it, put in your mouth and relish it. And you know there is cheese in it.

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Well, considering that both you and I are in the thin brigade, we can say this, can't we !

Vishal said...

I am not sure whether they are going to reduce fat contents in the beverages too as they are into foods business also. However, it is quite true that there are few of our products with less calories or zero calories which are doing very well in many markets. You are very right in saying that the company cannot afford not to do so. I would still go with the opinion that let consumer decide what they want to eat or drink. If they want to indulge in those mouth watering chips, let them do so and do not influence ingredient-mix of a product purely based on hypes created around health impact of each component.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - Yesh - I find it strange that a product like tea, or jam, is claiming nutritional benefits. They are meant for fun - leave them alone. There are other foods where health benefits are the key.

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