Junk and fast food companies are getting us to eat more than ever.
Junk and fast food companies are getting us to eat more than ever.

How junk food companies get us to eat more

A FORMER UK advertising heavyweight has revealed the sly ways junk food companies get us to eat more.

Dan Parker worked for corporations such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola for 20 years before being diagnosed with obesity-related type 2 diabetes, which had killed his father.

He tackled his illness through a strict diet and then started his own charity, Living Loud, which teams marketing and advertising professionals with anti-obesity foundations.

Mr Parker told The Guardian there were similarities between fast food corporations and Big Tobacco, and said they subtly encouraged consumers to eat more fat and sugar despite the growing obesity epidemic.

"I think what the food industry does now will define where it lands. If it behaves like tobacco it will end up being treated like tobacco. And I think it is behaving like tobacco," he said.

Mr Parker said one of the biggest problems with the industry was the way it was advertising increasingly larger portions, and special promotions which offer very cheap junk food with other purchases.

"What you're seeing is a lot of advertising for the bigger [chocolate] bar. You are seeing a lot of promotion of the bigger bar at point of purchase," he said.

"In (UK retailer) WH Smith you get thrust a £1 ($1.73AUD) chocolate bar if you go in there for anything."

Mr Parker said many food ads were also guilty of misrepresenting large amounts of junk food as normal, individual-sized portions.

"What that's doing is normalising the idea that [a] 100g bar is an individual portion of chocolate - although it will say on it you shouldn't eat more than 30g in tiny little writing on the bottom," he said.

He said "formalising a larger portion size" was unhealthy.

Another sneaky tactic used by the industry was funding research to "prove" obesity was caused by a lack of exercise.

"It's all about deflecting it away from being about what we eat," Mr Parker said.

He said junk and fast food companies had an obvious vested interest in boosting sales, but that supermarkets and advertisers also benefited from influencing the public to eat unhealthy, pre-packaged food.

Mr Parker said the food industry had reached a critical point in its history, and it needed to face up to the health risks associated with its products.

"If [the food industry] continues to sit there saying we're great, there's no problem, it's all to do with everything else, eventually - suddenly - there will be a switch in public will and then there will be an awful lot of bad regulation happening," he said.

According to 2014-15 ABS figures, 63.4 per cent of Australian adults - almost two in three of us - are overweight or obese.

It has increased from 56.3 per cent in 1995, showing it's a growing problem.

The Medical Journal of Australia claims Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world and that in 2008, obesity cost the country $8.3 billion.

Obesity has been linked to serious illnesses including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even death.



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