Lowering Junk/Fast Food Consumption


I have no clue what they are selling here but where do I pay?

One of my favorite chefs, Marcus Samuelsson recently posted an article titled Can A Ban On Junk Food Ads Reduce Its Consumption and after reading it I thought to myself that is not the way to do it.  The highlights of this article are as follows:

  • Quebec, Canada banned fast food ads between 1984 and 1992 which resulted in the consumption of ~11-22M fewer fast-food meals per year, or about 2.2-4.4 Billion fewer calories.
  • Soft drink manufacturers were found to target minority children with their marketing since those demographics were found to consume more sugar than their caucasian peers.
  • US Government would have to put out an all out ban on ads and not relegate it to just television but also the internet for a ban to work.
I think you can tell why I don’t think this is the way to reduce junk/fast food caloric consumption.  First off all we have to involve the Government in a way that goes against the free market system that we have built.  Not to mention that if the US Government does enact this type of law what is next?  Yes, there is always a slippery slope and please don’t tell me about the cigarette ban I get it.  My argument against the cigarette ban as an example is that no matter how much exercise you do if you are smoking there is a very good chance you will develop cancer of some sort and that can be potentially fatal.  With obesity this is treatable without the use of radiation or chemotherapy.  It is called walking.  It is called riding a bike.  It is called exercise and thus not comparable to cigarettes in my opinion.
The second problem I have with this is that the results are so vast.  How is a study conclusive when the results indicate a spread of 11 Million?  This isn’t a small percentage of the total but literally doubles the amount.  To me this is a skewed number and a number that I cannot trust.  If the results were 11 Million to 12 Million over the course of 8 years then I would feel more comfortable with the statistics but this variance is too large to ignore.
Lastly, this type of thought process removes the responsibility from the user.  Shouldn’t the person who is consuming all of this be responsible for themselves?  Yes, they need education as does all of America and what is a ‘healthy’ meal but in banning ads the Government would just be removing the responsibility from those that need to be responsible the most.  If they don’t see ads, does that mean they don’t see the Golden Arches as they drive down the street?  Of course not, so education is what is needed in this scenario and the complete banning of junk/fast food ads is not the answer.

I think the answer might lie in an article that I received from BDD  a while back.  When he sent me the article about lowering the consumption of junk/fast food by showcasing the amount of exercise that would need to be done to counter balance the number of calories in that food I was very interested.  I thought a lot about this and whether or not it would effective.

I don’t think it is the end all be all because I can envision a scenario in which a person looks at a can of Coke and sees 30 minutes of exercise and just laughs and then says ‘I’d just rather drink another and make it an even hour’ and then never follow through.  With that being said I do think that this is a step in the right direction, similar to the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes.  While I don’t think it is the end all be all I think that a label that showcases how much exercise would need to be done to combat the calories is a start.


The image that you look like this by eating Carls Jr is deceiving.

I also don’t think this should be limited to junk/fast foods but to all foods.  Just because it is healthy does not mean that we can eat all we want without exercising.  Excess calories in still need to be burned, so why not list the amount of exercise on everything.  If you picked up a frozen meal from Lean Cuisine and it showed 210 calories and you needed to exercise for 1 hour to burn all the calories and compared that to the chicken, rice, mushrooms and green beans (in serving size) and saw 291 calories with 1 hour of exercise which would you choose.  Before you answer that take a look at the ingredients in Lean Cusisin:



Wouldn’t you rather consume chicken, rice, mushrooms and green beans and exercise for an hour rather than consuming additional sodium caramel color?

A listing of the amount of time to exercise may eventually fall on deaf ears but it is a start and in now way prohibits companies from selling their products and just might increase sales of a certain product.

What Are Your Thoughts On Bans Of Junk/Fast Food Ads?

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  1. Jen says:

    I don’t know.. I think generally speaking people need to be responsible for their choices. I also think that people are ‘generally’ educated enough in this day and age to be able to identify that a giant bacon cheeseburger with fries is unhealthy.

    On the flip side. I hate the food marketing to our kids. I hate that kids (my son included) gets excited when he sees a McDonalds – I also think it’s gross how these companies pray on the poorest in our country who might actually not have enough education on nutrition or might be ignorant to the healthier ways they can manage that are available for them.

    I don’t know if an out and out ban is appropriate but maybe some guidelines and regulations?

  2. It’s all a ploy, frankly I’m amazed that so many people don’t want to take the time to make something. People rarely even read ingredients either. If you have time to put something in the microwave then you could have made a big healthy salad. Funny thing is the government is the one who is keeping all of us unhealthy.

  3. The problem is is that the free market system is being abused and government can’t do anything about it. The only thing that ever works is a dramatic shift in the thinking of the people.
    Patrick Mahoney recently posted..Should We Go Back To Space?My Profile

  4. Donna D says:

    Your idea of showing how much exercise one can of coke is reminds me of a conversation I had at breakfast about two years ago. My sports therapist and I had just gone swimming and stopped to get some eggs and toast and coffee. A guy in the diner asked us how we got so fit, and told us about his bike. He then asked how much exercise it would take to “burn one of these” and held up his can of coke. When we said “about 30 minutes of gentle bike riding” he was shocked. He said it was the most powerful thing he’d heard about the way he was eating and drinking, and told us he would be having water with his breakfast from now on, and shook our hands. I think there is a lot to be said about “humanising” the exercise and consumption message and how powerful it really can be…
    Donna D recently posted..The Rubbish DietMy Profile

  5. Maria Simone says:

    I agree with Patrick about a shift in the way people (and more broadly culture) think about food.

    The cigarette ban is a great example of this. I think it is too simplistic to say that the cigarette ban contributed to a reduction in cigarette smoking (especially when there are some groups in which smoking rates might be on the rise again…). However, the ban on such advertising is definitely emblematic of a broader cultural shift toward stigmatizing smoking. Along with the ban on advertising, we had bans for smoking indoors, within certain amount of feet of building, less smoking by actors in movies/tv shows, etc. Many of the communicative elements of cultural (re)production pointed toward a negative attitude regarding cigarette smoking. The ban on ads was only one of these.

    Similarly with food, a simple ban on advertising will not address the root of the problem: the choices we make about what we put in our bodies, and the cultural norms that support those choices, i.e., indulge, enjoy, relax, splurge, etc. For example, on my birthday, my mother in law asked me if I was going to “treat myself like a princess” for my birthday. I said, “Yup. I’ve got a 2 hour bike ride on the schedule.” She replied, “No, I mean eat whatever you want and relax.” that’s the attitude, right? Do nothing, eat, eat, eat. I love her to death, but that’s the mentality.

    And, as Jason rightly points out – fast food is only one part of a larger issue: too-big portion sizes, eating too much processed food, eating too much of the wrong types of foods (fast food or not), etc.

    And, this issue is further problematized when people use “fad” diets with the sole purpose of losing weight – rather than adapting a style of eating that is conducive to a healthy lifestyle. hence – lean cuisine, jenny craig, etc. We need to think in terms of *nutrition* not dieting (as least in the way that “diet” is used in this culture).

    OMG – Jason – I am ranting again on your blog. I guess it’s the twin thing…;)
    Maria Simone recently posted..Flowing in the ZoneMy Profile

  6. Karen says:

    I am not a fan of more government involvement. I think people need to take some responsibility for themselves and their choices – good or bad. If government wants to get involved they can start an education campaign. Putting more requirements and / or restrictions on business is not the way to go. IMHO
    Karen recently posted..Best Meals Happen at Home Publix Giveaway!My Profile

  7. Misszipy says:

    Pretty much agree–this isn’t as simple as advertising. I think it takes a multi-faceted approach. Our society became unhealthy via many factors and to change ghat, we have to look at them all and react to them all.
    Misszipy recently posted..My 11 randomsMy Profile

  8. lindsay says:

    i am not tempted by fast food commercials, but i know i am in a rare group. as for kim kardashian, i would avoid eating at carls jr b/c i do not want a big badonkadonk!

    ultimately, i do not want big government. so, if this could be done in away that did not drive up tax dollars i would support it. i think people should be more responsible for themselves and their actions — both individuals and corporations — instead of blaming each other and ultimately depending on the government to bail them out.
    lindsay recently posted..i can and i willMy Profile

  9. Marlene says:

    It’s the same way parents blame the obesity of their children for grocery stores displaying candy bars at the check out lines. Nobody wants to take responsiblity for the choices they make for their own and their family’s health. That’s right, the CHOICES! Nobody is forcing anyone to buy this or eat that. Sure, it may be tempting to a child (or even adult) when there are treats in their direct line of sight on the ya out of the store, but we need to learn restraint… to say no… to teach our children WHY they are not going to have that candy bar right now.
    Marlene recently posted..Boston Training – Week 4… with some ramblesMy Profile

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