RESEARCH | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Health risks are rising due to growth of fast food, says research

The Asia-Pacific region is at risk to poor nutrition and health concerns.

According to a study published in Globalization and Health, modern trade policy opened the region to more processed food and drinks, which may result in a rise of health risks. In the study, which looked at sales and company data from transnational food and beverage companies, expenditure on food services from companies such as KFC and McDonald’s increased eighteen-fold from $1.90 per person in 1999 to $34.80 per person in 2013 in China.

The research also found that the Coca-Cola Company alone had sales in 2013 of more than $16 billion in the Asian region, or 18 percent of their world sales.

“It is a health disaster waiting to happen. Companies are focusing their efforts in Asia because of the large market opportunities and growth in consumption that has still to happen,” said study co-author Sharon Friel, a professor at the Australian National University.

“Many countries, particularly lower-middle income ones, are having increasing issues with diet related diseases such as cardio-vascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.”

Stronger health regulations across the region, including in Australia, must be implemented to curb the risks, Friel said.

“We need to start looking at policies that mitigate the health risks of these types of products. We need to look at introducing a tax on sugary drinks.”

Investment by food and beverage companies is facilitated by trade and investment agreements, the study noted.

Fried added, "[Governments should] think about the trade and investment agreements they are signing, what they will mean for domestic health policy, and how they can protect human health.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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