07 October, 2006

Obesity - the fast-food link

A few weeks ago, I had pondered about obesity among GCC nationals. Some startling facts published today reassure me that one of the most important causes indeed is Diet.

Consider these:

- There are 315 fast food outlets in the UAE; 43 of these are McDonald’s alone!

- One single Hardee’s outlet sells 20,000 burgers per day!
- In 2004, total sales recorded for GCC fast-food market was US$ 600M! UAE’s fast food market is estimated at US$117M

- At least 26% of UAE residents eat at a fast-food joint once a week! This figure shoots up to 65% in case of Emiratis and Expat Arabs!

The facts raise a few questions which are worth pondering about:

1) Could there be a possibility of a “Food Law” that restricts the menus (or ingredients) of these fast-food joint? Knowing that obesity is high among Emiratis and fast food contribute largely to this menace, I feel this kind of law would be in best interest of all residents

2) Is there a possibility that Food companies and MNCs are requested to launch “good food habits” campaigns targeted primarily to the parents of school-going kids? Knowing the revenues generated from the Gulf food sector esp. during Ramadan and festival times, I feel it would be easier for Govt. lobbies to convince these companies.

3) Is there a possibility of restricting the growth of “unhealthy” fast-food joints in favour of “healthier” ones? Growth of Fast-food culture is fuelled by the growth of mall culture in GCC. Perhaps by looking at the menus and ingredients, a certification could be imposed as “necessary” to have a shop in the malls.

Any more ideas on this?

Cross posted here. Photo Courtesy: Gulf News


Lirun said...

i really dont like fast food.. i prefer to eat carpet fluff..

Slagothor said...

Here's a suggestion: let's leave it up to people to decide what they eat.

I understand that the concept of individual responsibility isn't very popular in this forum, but do you people seriously want the government deciding what you can and can't shove down your throat?

If I want to cram down 6,000 calories of chicken fat every day until I weigh 250 kg, it's my business and my problem, and nobody else's.

Obesity is not a public health problem, it is a result of personal choices.

Anonymous said...

Funny isn't it, how people are. When it comes to openly racist advertisements, they don't want the government to legislate against it...and even go so far as to call it a fundamental right. But when certain food preparations are considered unhealthy, they want legislation against it!

No one's holding a gun to your head and asking you to eat it. People fork out their own hard-earned money--how hard don't ask: depends on the person--for the privilege of eating at these places...and it's all voluntary.

What next: ban cheesecake at 5-star hotels?

marwan said...

Rising obesity is a worldwide problem, especially among those with, shall we say, disposable income. But we can't legislate personal responsibility.

The idea that most makes sense to me is that 'healthy eating' campaign - except I know how many people pay attention to Dubai's campaigns, and it's not a lot.

the fat kid said...

Obesity becomes a public health problem when the obese people get all kinds of other health issues, thereby putting more stress on the healthcare system.

Laws are not the way, what you have to do is affect individual's personal choice and lifestyle.

An interesting thing from much of the western world is that it's actually among those with little disposable income that are obese and proportionally more so than those with a lot of money.

bandicoot said...

sounds like a supersized legislation!

Anonymous said...

some views on it here

Anonymous said...

That's really stupid. If i want to let myself go with a couple hundred burgers, it would be my choice, I dont want to be forced to 'healthy' or 'balanced' stuff in it.

This would be another form of censorship that people will start complaining about later.

dredge said...

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Anonymous said...

"Funny isn't it, how people are. When it comes to openly racist advertisements" Get over it already.
I agree there should be a law limiting the number of chains in the country, obesity was not an issue until the fast food chain exited in this country. And yes, you can't tell people what they should eat, but by having more healthier options around like shawarma's etc...and having those junk poison less accessable might be the solution.

fellow atheist said...

Most of you here are missing the point, I think.

It's not about individual rights only. This affects the budget for public health. If everyone is obese, everyone's got problems that are directly linked to obesity, more money is being spent on treating them.

Now the UAE may be a bit of a different situation _today_. However, the more you let such things get out of hand, the more it will hurt in the future.

I just finished my McD's meal. Not because "I'm loving it", but because it's the quickest and closest thing that I can grab to get back to the office and continue working. I can understand, however, someone not liking their government's money being spent on my well being when I am largely responsible for its bad shape.

Make sense?

Slagothor said...


If you were spending your own money on your health care, and not the money that the government stole from the public, then it would be nobodys bsiness but your own. The most dangerous thing about socialized medicine is the fact that it gives Big Brither a "right" to dictate every minute detail of your life to you. Is the concept of individual liberty really such an alien idea to the inhabitants of the Sandlands?

Maybe a lot of people are too lazy or too stupid to make their own decisions for themselves (and thus only too happy to delegate that responsibility to some anonymous bureaucrat), but I'm not. I want to make my own decisions, and am happy to accept the responsibility that comes with that.

Dana said...

- There are 315 fast food outlets in the UAE; 43 of these are McDonald’s alone!

AWESOME! Dana is a fastfood luffing kid.

Here's a suggestion: let's leave it up to people to decide what they eat...

I AGREE WITH YOU...and the rest of your comment.=D

bklyn_in_dubai said...

who would've thought there'd be so many republicans in the uae? scarf down as many big macs as you like. but so what if the gov't gives an edict like ok, we have too many fatty emiratis (who cares about the expats) and we don't want a diabetes epidemic, so all fast food burger buns must have whole grain and not refined flour, all shakes and sodas must be made with natural, not refined, sugars. or they could ban transfats, as mayor bloomberg in nyc is doing now. the gov't here (and elsewhere) legislates on all kinds of things that are seen as "individual" choices -- porn, alcohol, smoking -- whether through taxes or bans or restrictions or whatnot. why is food any different? if you want eat yourself to a heart attack -- go for it. i myself have attempted it many a time. it's delicious. but it's not a human right. (Incidentally, this line of reasoning of individual choice that so many of the posts here put forward is almost the same that the tobacco industry used to try to keep away from regulation in the states.)

the funny thing is this whole asinine business of who are you to legislate MY tastes -- your tastes were developed in suburban chemical labs in the US in the chemicals revolution in the 1950s and beyond. isn't it quite the coincidence that YOUR tastes happen to be exactly the ones that Hardy's and McD's want you to have, and are the reason they're so profitable? your tastes have been engineered -- literally and figuratively -- by corporate america (try and boycott that!) Don't look too close at what you're eating though -- it would be disconcerting. If you haven't seen the film Supersize Me or read the book Fast Food Nation (or interviews with the author Eric Schlossinger) you should.

Slagothor said...


Who'd have thought there'd be so many nanny-state socialists in the UAE?

I'm no republican, I'm a libertarian. And while I defend your right to eat McDonalds, be assured that I haven't touched the stuff in about 15 years.

I do find as bizarre your claim that eating whatever one wants is not a "human right". Is there some more basic, more fundamental notion that you own, if nothing else, your own body, and are thus free to do with it as you please, so long as you do not harm anybody else in the process?

By the way, diabetes isn't contagious, so there cannot be an epidemic of it. Unless you have some novel post-modern redefinition of the word "epidemic".

The bottom line is this: you personally disapprove of the choices some other people make, and you want to use the coercive power of the state to punish those choices. You accept the Chomskian notion that we are all brainless lab-manipulated sheep incapable of making independent decisions (except you, of course). I don't.

Seems like we have two drastically different worldviews: mine optimistic, your pessimistic.

shansenta said...

Slagothor and Anon @15:37:
It’s true that eating preference is definitely a personal choice; but obesity is not – it’s a national problem. A nation currently heavily dependent on Expat population, cannot afford to have at leastits younger populace to be obese – and hence perhaps severely impaired to take the country ahead! I feel this is the last thing Shk Zayed would have visioned for his country.

I don’t see how dictating the “healthiness” of what you eat out-of-home could ever be equated to “Big Brother” type of control. If the Govt. comes down heavily on these joints - for selling sub-graded beef burger - would you say it is “dictating your life”?

Anon (@13:59):
I feel it’d be irresponsible to NOT appreciate the above fact. General health is a national responsibility, and this is one of the pre-requisites of a developed society. (BTW I don’t see what racist adverts have to do with this?)

Nobody wants a doctor throughout his life. But when ill, one needs his intense regimen to recover. I see obesity as a pandemic in GCC, which every GCC Govt. can control / eradicate by acting as a “doctor” and save their national masses. I agree with you that people have lesser attention span in Dubai for such campaigns – unless however, some serious effort and money is dedicated to it.

Fat kid:
Won’t you agree that a mere fever, if not diagnosed and attended well can even turn out to a malefic irreversible illness? Similarly look at Obesity as the “fever” or a “sign” of serious public health issues – esp. within a baby-booming population of the gulf. A health awareness campaign could be a good start to affect personal choice and lifestyle.

Hot Lemon and Honey:
Thanks for the suggestion of healthier options like shawarma's etc... this is what I meant by “healthier” joints; even though I feel some of the Malabari shawarma joints – most popular with local youths – sell extremely oily stuff.

Bklyn-in-dubai and Fellow Aethist:
I guess both of you picked the point very well. Thanks for taking the whole issue in proper perspective.

dredge said...

I'm glad shansenta is not my public health minister!
shawarma (50% grease) a healthy option??? OMG

shansenta said...

shawarma (50% grease)

I guess you got me on that one! :) :)
I'm not a shawarma eater myself, hence have never gauged its healthiness;
nevertheless, though extremely oily, I've often enjoyed the taste of some other items at the Malabari shawarma joints!

Anonymous said...

Fast Food such as KFC is over priced, and poor qulaity, let alone they rip you off with
AED 5.00 dirhams for delivery and when you complain that the food is cold and french fries soggy and not fit for human consumption they get aggressive and raise their voice at you. They have tooo many customers and do not care anymore.

If you care to live and care about your health avoid Fast Food.

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