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The Issue of Consumer Manipulation Responsible for Child Obesity

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There is a constant ongoing battle on whether the responsibility for child obesity is the parents or the fast food corporations. For example, Daniel Weintraub’s article in the Sacramento Bee, “The Battle Against Fast Food Begins in the Home” Daniel claims that it is the parent’s’ responsibility to monitor their children’s eating habits and not the fast food corporations. However many food companies are known for increasing their meals in size, such as McDonald’s Supersize, Organic or better quality food can be expensive which makes it extra easy to resort to fast food meals, and fast food companies such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Del Taco, Carl’s Jr., ect are also very well known for unhealthy foods that continue to be distributed despite the increasing obesity rate.

Since 1977 food portions have been growing in size. According to ABC News hamburgers expanded by 23%, soft drinks increased 52%, and snacks such as chips and crackers have grown 60% larger over the past 20 years and the obesity rate increased with it. In Shannon Brownlee’s article “It’s Portion Distortion That Makes America Fat” she states that the increasing amount of obesity is due to consumer manipulation that dates back to 1983. Food companies, such as Taco Bell, enhance the size of their portions so the customer gets more for only a tiny increase in price. It may not seem profitable to sell extra food for only a small increase, but actual fast-food meals are extremely cheap. Out of every dollar that the fast-food franchises spends, only 20 cents goes to food costs, the rest go to salaries, bills, insurance, packaging, and advertisement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports as of today Americans ate 20% more calories in 2000 than in 1983 because of the increase in portion sizes which make up 11% of an average American’s diet and explains part of why the obesity rate is growing.

Speaking of consumer manipulation, according to Brownlee’s article, fast food restaurants would drop their prices 40-50 cents below their competitors to attract more customers because cheap food. Many families maybe too cheap or too poor to invest in some higher quality organic foods such as fruits and vegetables. America’s supply of organic food is limited, production costs are higher, marketing and distributions are inefficient and costly, and more; this causes organic produce to be more expensive. Processed foods are cheaper because producing it is much cheaper and the supply can meet the demand. I have worked a full-time job for a fast-food chain with many of the customers that have very little money to their name that came almost every single day. Fast food was cheaper than buying individual ingredients, so the customers would end up eating two course meals at all the fast food restaurants on the same block. As of 2013 the National Center for Children in Poverty reported that 44% of the nation’s children live in a low-income household which concludes that nearly 44% of the children possibly have no choice but to survive on fast food due to the fact that their family can not afford organic foods.

Fast food corporations are aware of the unhealthy effects of their food and food portions due to studies and lawsuits from the people who suffer from the unhealthy effects of the junk food sold at fast food restaurants. Unhealthy effects of junk food include obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and increased risk of death but food companies don’t do anything to help decrease or ultimately do away with the possibilities of getting any diseases. The corporations continue to choose to do nothing about their food items despite the complaints and continue to sell big portions of food with good, customer luring, deals. Although it’s understandable that the corporations believe that it is the customer’s responsibility to eat healthy, they should take into consideration how many people also buy the fast food because it’s the only thing that they can afford and provide a healthier alternative that is also affordable.

Although parents may hold some responsibility to child obesity, it does not compare to the amount of responsibility that fast food businesses hold for enlarging portion sizes, for the cheap prices for processed foods make it affordable for families with low income or are in poverty, and for not doing anything to decrease health risks caused by the processed junk food that is served. Some people may argue that low-income families can apply for and use their EBT cards to buy organic and healthy foods to eat, however society looks down on EBT users whenever they purchase what people believe is a “luxury food item” to low-income families and criticize them for “using tax dollars to buy expensive food.” Many people look down on EBT users so much that some may not even apply for it because they’re afraid of all the criticism they would get for it and live off junk food. It would be a step forward to a better future for people’s health if fast-food restaurants found a way to make affordable, delicious, healthy food items apart of their menu. It is time for people of all different types of income to get healthy and lower the obesity rate.

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