The Food Industries and Their Control Over Our Stomachs


The food industry has significantly changed our feeding habits. This situation has led to emergence of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and hypertension. Obesity is one of the most common lifestyle diseases worldwide. This condition is brought about by the intake of unhealthy foodstuffs that contain large amounts of sugar and cholesterol. As a result, a person gains excess and unwanted calories that result in obesity.

However, the food industry has gone ahead unabated to process unhealthy foodstuffs. Children and the middle-aged persons are the most vulnerable to obesity due to their passion for ‘fast foods’ or ‘junks’ that are easily accessible and highly advertised in the media by the food processing companies. In the United States alone, various statistics have shown that about 35-percent of the children are overweight. The number of obesity cases has tripled in the last three decades. This essay provides an overview of the relationship between the food industry and childhood obesity.

The Relationship between the Food Industry and Childhood Obesity

According to Kunkel et al., the food industry uses over 11 billion per year to market food and beverages that appeal children and the youth. Approximately, 2 billion of this amount targets marketing of fast foods, soft drinks, and promoted cereals (270). The use of licensed cartoon characters has become a superior marketing strategy that the players in the food industry use to lure the attention of parents and children. Although most of the products do not meet the Institute of Medicine (IOM) standards of foodstuffs, food companies have continued to manufacture and distribute such foods to the American families.

The media forms a great platform for advertisement of unhealthy food products in the US through television commercials. In addition, use of digital devices and public platforms for advertising food products make children to interact constantly with news about the emergence and availability of new junk foods in the food market. Zlatevska, Dubelaar, and Holden reveal that two-thirds of these food industries do not have proper policies to regulate the marketing of low nutritional foodstuffs to children (144). Although various bodies came up with certain nutritional standards to monitor the food products that are administered to children, the move was greatly opposed by the food industries through the interventions of the Congress.

Why Obesity is Rampant amongst Children

Karnani, McFerran, and Mukhopadhyay reveal that families have a significant influence on the eating habits of a child (13). The authors advance that children develop a taste for dietary choices that become their favorite foods even during their adulthood. Therefore, if families expose children to unhealthy foodstuffs, they will ultimately develop a habit of eating junk foods when they are away from home. Unhealthy eating habits significantly contribute to body overweight. Many food manufacturers have come up with varieties of food that are targeted to children. This situation has presented many parents with a wide-range of food choices for their children. The food choice at the family level greatly determines the health of a child (Laster et al. 1478). Exposure of children to readymade high calorie foodstuffs results in child obesity.

The food industry has a major focus on the production of fast foods that target school-going children (Dempsey 55). In this context, the schools have become ready markets for the high calorie products. Although schools in the US are registered with the National School Lunch Program that caters for breakfast, lunch, and after-class snacks, the availability of junky high calorie foodstuffs outside the food program in cafeterias and vendor outlets, exposes these children to unhealthy diets. Intake of these foods increases the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the children. This situation results in obesity (Lee, Van Dolen, and Kolk 696).

The food industry continuously advertises its food products in the media. This situation has had significant social influence to the American society. The industry uses advertisement as a tool to woe unsuspicious people to purchase their unhealthy foodstuffs. Government policies have also contributed to proliferation of unhealthy foodstuff by encouraging food industries process and distribute of unhealthy foodstuffs by reducing levies on raw products (Karnani, McFerran, and Mukhopadhyay 25).

Food Marketing Strategies that have Increased Overweight cases amongst Children

Campbell, Cleland, and Ball reveal that the food industry uses numerous marketing strategies to sell its products (269). At the outset, players in the food industry do a great deal to promote their foodstuffs in an attempt to increase their client bases. Promotion entails marketing of foodstuffs in certain potential areas where food products are likely to be purchased in large amounts due to the prevailing economic potential or popularity of the product to the customers. Sharma, Teret, and Brownell reveal that this strategy increases the number of children who gain access to unhealthy diets that result in elevated cases of childhood obesity (245).

Sallis and Glanz reveal that supermarkets and fast-food restaurants have also increased accessibility to unhealthy food options to the children (125). These food stores have tagged favorable food prices on junk foods. Price plays a very vital role in the selection of a product. Therefore, pricing is used in the food industries to gain market access to low income earners and conservatives who work on constrained budgets. These families hardly afford to maintain their lifestyles. As a result, they end up purchasing unhealthy foods that have devastating effects on their children. Frequent intake of such unhealthy foods results in obesity. A recent survey that was conducted by Larson and Story reveals that most low-income households consider 85 types of fruits and vegetables as unaffordable across the US (64).

The nature of a product is also another factor that determines the quality of the food that is sold in a place at a particular time. Places that are more affluent tend to have more healthy foodstuffs as compared to the low-income neighborhoods. A study that was conducted by Lioret et al. revealed that over 53-percent of the food stores in Upper East of New York City are stocked with high-fiber and low fat food as compared to the 20-percent of the stores in East Harlem (25).

Conclusion and Future Solutions

Researchers have been calling for public policy efforts to curb the rise of obesity cases amongst children in the United States. Currently, the US lacks flexible regulatory frameworks that can halt obesity growth and the related health problems.

However, various improvements in the food environment together with the support of various governmental sectors that are concerned with families and social institutions can result in a set of amicable regulations to control the food industry. Health sectors play a vital role by creating awareness of unhealthy food that is distributed by the food industry. The adherence to this kind of knowledge through the supervision of the government is gradually changing the mindset of the citizens. As a result, many families have seen a need to adopt healthy feeding lifestyles to evade the accompanying health problems that are associated with unhealthy food.

Work Citation

Campbell, Karen, Verity Cleland, and Kylie Ball. “Three-year change in diet quality and associated changes in BMI among schoolchildren living in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.” British Journal of Nutrition 112.2(2014): 260-68. Print.

Dempsey, Shane. “The Obesity Question.” Checkout 40.3(2014): 55. Print.

Karnani, Aneel, Brent McFerran, and Anirban Mukhopadhyay. “Leanwashing: A Hidden Factor in the Obesity Crisis.” California Management Review 56.4(2014): 5-30. Print.

Kunkel, Dale, Jessica Castonguay, Paul Wright, and Christopher McKinley. “Solution or Smokescreen? Evaluating Industry Self-Regulation of Televised Food Marketing to Children.” Communication Law & Policy 19.3(2014): 263-92. Print.

Laster, Leigh Ellen, Cheryl Lovelady, Deborah West, Gina Wiltheiss, Rebecca Brouwer, Marissa Stroo, and Truls Østbye. “Research: Diet Quality of Overweight and Obese Mothers and Their Preschool Children Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.” 113.11(2013): 1476-83. Print.

Larson, Nicole and Mary Story. “A Review of Environmental Influences on Food Choices.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 38.1(2009): 56-73. Print.

Lee, Hsin-Hsuan Meg, Willemijn Van Dolen, and Ans Kolk. “On the Role of Social Media in the ‘Responsible’ Food Business: Blogger Buzz on Health and Obesity Issues.” Journal of Business Ethics 118.4(2013): 695-707. Print.

Lioret, Sandrine, Sarah McNaughton, Adrian Cameron, David Crawford, Karen Sallis, James and Karen Glanz. “Physical Activity and Food Environments: Solutions to the Obesity Epidemic.” Milbank Quarterly 87.1(2009): 123-54. Print.

Sharma, Lisa, Stephen Teret, and Kelly Brownell. “The Food Industry and Self-Regulation: Standards to Promote Success and to Avoid Public Health Failures.” American Journal of Public Health 100.2(2010): 240-46. Print.

Zlatevska, Natalina, Chris Dubelaar, and Stephen Holden. “Sizing Up the Effect of Portion Size on Consumption: A Meta-Analytic Review.” Journal of Marketing 78.3(2014): 140-54. Print.