Mcdonalds entered the country in 1996, against the backdrop of a market that was hesitant to try fast food and was still dependent on the “ghar ka khana” packed in tiffin boxes and the canteen food offering a different lunch every-day. The familiarity of the tastes was the hook that kept the people coming back for more! However, two decades later, things have changed. India's fast-food industry is expected to double in size between 2013 and 2016, to $1.12 billion, as it has yet to expand beyond the largest cities. India also has a new prime minister, Narendra Modi, that has been a vocal advocate of increased foreign direct investment. However, does – bigger, juicier, saltier, sweeter, crunchier mean healthy as well? En-route to expansion, however, its failing in two areas that need attention! They are:
Firstly, Junk food makers spend billions marketing unhealthy foods to children. According to the Federal Trade Commission, food makers spend some $1.6 billion annually to attract them through the traditional media as well the Internet, in-store marketing techniques, and sweepstakes. An article published in 2006 in the Journal of Public Health Policy puts the number as high as $10 billion annually. The bulk of these techniques are for unhealthy products high in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium. Promotions often contain cartoon characters or giveaways to entice children into the junk food fold. The average child is exposed to 5,500 marketing techniques which entice them into breakfast cereals, fast food, soft drinks, candy and snacks. This leads to several health concerns. For children, who don’t always understand the health consequences of their eating habits, junk food may appear especially appetizing. However, regularly consuming fattening junk food can be addictive for children and lead to complications like obesity, chronic illness, low self-esteem and even depression, as well as affecting how they perform in school and extracurricular activities.
Secondly, more processing means more profits, but typically makes food less healthy. Minimally processed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables obviously aren't where food companies look for profits. The moolah stems from turning government-subsidized commodity crops—mainly corn, wheat, and soybeans—into fast foods, snack foods, and high-energy beverages. High-profit products derived from these commodity crops are generally high in calories and less in nutritional value. Also, these processed foods lack many micronutrients, fiber and plant substances that guard against many heart ailments and diabetes. Consider: A 10-ounce, 90-calorie portion of strawberries has 5 grams of fiber, abundant vitamins and minerals, and dozens of phytochemicals, while a 1-ounce portion of friends has close to 300 calories, but virtually none of the “plant” benefits.
Thus health is the biggest deterrant towards the growth of the fast-food industry. And aptly so. It is a concern behind many diet-related diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, liver diseases and asthma! However, were the tiffin dabbas any more nutritious? The oil-laden curries, the rice laced with geera, the dals with the “chounks” of chillies, the stuffed paranthas or those tiny purees that you eat about 4-5 at once! (equaling to amount of calories of a McAloo tikki!). Fast food has taught us to make wiser choices, it has taught us to eat in portions, it has taught us the value of money. Most importantly it has taught us the value of Good Health