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Junk Food Sales Slowing in the U.S.A.? Sell to the World 

September 29, 2017
Plain English Version

Obese women on the beach in Brazil.

The world is getting richer. This means more people are working. And it means there is less time to prepare meals from traditional sources.This fits well with a huge effort food companies are making to feed the world. And to grow their balance sheets.

Here is the most important fact to remember. Across the world today, there are more people who are obese than there are people who are underweight. And more people are both overweight and undernourished. It is because of the kinds of food they eat.

What happened? Americans are still overweight. But more Americans are turning to healthy food. Some of the big food companies are Nestlé, PepsiCo, and General Mills. They have turned to selling more food to countries such as Brazil, Ghana, and India.

If it were not for the number of overweight people the food is creating, it would be a sign of global progress.

Slick sales programs make packaged food attractive. People whose incomes are rising view buying these products as a sign of success. The convenience of preparing packaged food is a big factor in their attractiveness.

One expert said it looks like the best of all possible worlds — cheap, available food. He went on, “If you do not think about it too hard, it makes sense.” A closer look reveals a much different story. He said, “To put it in stark terms: The diet is killing us.”

Chart of the overweight and obese people.

The problem with packaged foods is obesity. Obesity leads to hypertension, diabetes and heart problems. The cost to any country for these maladies is high. And countries know this. For example, Brazil tried to limit the amount of sugar, salt and saturated fats in processed food. It couid not.

The real obstacle to change is the large amount of money the food companies earn. This leads them to try to keep countries from making laws that will limit their profits. This is about lobbying governments. It is about spending money to influence public policy.

What are some of the problems leading to the explosion of obesity? The food tastes good. More people are working in the industries that bring food to the table. Consumer demand is for more food choices.

Some food companies try to improve their products. But consumer choice may go in a different direction. Ice cream will always taste better than vegetables.

Source: The New York Times, September 16, 2017

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