HEALTH

“One of the problems with all of this is that not all narratives are equal. Imagine, to take a silly example, that someone told you story after story extolling the virtues of eating dog shit. You’ve been told these stories since you were a child. You believe them. You eat dog shit hotdogs, dog shit ice cream, General Tso’s dog shit. Sooner or later, if you are exposed to some other foods, you might figure out that dog shit really doesn’t taste good. Or if you cling too tightly to these stories (or if your enculturation is so strong that dog shit actually does taste good to you), the diet might make you sick or kill you. To make this example a little less silly, substitute the word pesticides for dog shit. Or, for that matter, substitute Big Mac, Whopper, or Coca Cola.” ― Derrick Jensen, Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization

For Yum! Brands, Inc., you could substitute the Nachos BellGrande, P’Zones, or Colonel’s Crispy Strips.

On their site, Yum! Brands, Inc. states the following:

“This commitment to people extends to the communities we serve across the world. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is central to our ability to succeed in the marketplace and to be positive, responsible corporate citizens. Because we’re the largest restaurant company in the world and we’re passionate about helping people better themselves and their communities, we’re determined to address three critical challenges:

  • The health and nutritional needs of our consumers; (Section A below)
  • Feeding the world’s hungry; (Section B below) and
  • Being responsible and intentional in our actions toward the sustainability of the environment and agricultural resources on which our business depends (Section C below)

(Section A above) – Yum! Brands, Inc. wants me to believe they care about the health and nutritional needs of their consumers? Here are some stats:

According to The American Heart Association, “1 in 3 children (ages 2-19 BMI at or above 85th percentile) are overweight and obese, and 1 in 6 children (ages 2-19 BMI at or above 95th percentile) are obese.

Among Americans age 20 and older, 149.3 million are overweight or obese – that’s almost half the country (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher): – 78.0 million men and 71.3 million women. Of these, 75.0 million are obese (BMI of 30.0 kg/m2 and higher): – 34.9 million men and 40.1 million women.

Among Americans age 20 and older, the following are overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 and higher):

  • For non-Hispanic whites, 72.3 percent of men and 59.3 percent of women
  • For non-Hispanic blacks, 70.8 percent of men and 77.7 percent of women
  • For Mexican Americans, 77.5 percent of men and 75.1 percent of women

Of these, the following are obese (BMI of 30.0 and higher):

  • For non-Hispanic whites, 32.1 percent of men and 32.8 percent of women
  • For non-Hispanic blacks, 37.0 percent of men and 51.0 percent of women
  • For Mexican Americans, 31.4 percent of men and 43.4 percent of women

The total excess cost related to the current prevalence of adolescent overweight and obesity is estimated to be $254 billion (i.e. $208 billion in lost productivity secondary to premature morbidity and mortality and $46 billion in direct medical costs). If current trends in the growth of obesity continue, total healthcare costs attributable to obesity could reach $861 to $957 billion or higher by 2030, which would account for 16% to 18% or more of US health expenditures.

According to The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, “600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths.” That’s more than the 440,000 Americans who die each year from tobacco-related deaths, the 30,000 Americans who die each year from gun-related deaths, and the 24,000 Americans who die each year from alcohol-related deaths combined. Our government has the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), but they don’t have the BFF (Bureau of Fast Food), even when over 100,000 more Americans are killed annually by heart disease of which a major contributing factor is diet.

According to United Press International, “People who eat fast-food four or more times a week up their risk of dying from heart disease by 80 percent, researchers in the United States and Singapore say. The study, published online in the journal Circulation, found people who consumed fast-food even once a week increase their risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 20 percent, in comparison to people who avoid fast-food. The risk increased by 50 percent for people who eat fast-food two to three times each week.”

A couple of months ago, The Oregonian published an article that reads:

“Major food corporations face a quandary. They are under Wall Street’s constant profit-growth pressure, but they can’t substantially raise product prices because the food market is so cost sensitive. Therefore, to entice us to spend even more on eating, Big Food has lately been trying to extend the biological limits of consumption by challenging one of the most basic structures of American culture: the traditional meal schedule. For the past few decades, food companies had aimed their marketing at single meals, pushing to inflate portion sizes. That initiative was wildly successful. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported, the average restaurant meal in the United States is now an unfathomable four times larger than it was in 1950. That has translated into “Americans now consuming 2,700 calories a day, about 500 calories more than 40 years ago,” according to The Atlantic Monthly.

One predictable result of this trend is an obesity rate that’s poised to top 40 percent and that already costs the nation hundreds of billions of dollars in additional health care expenditures. The other result is that the supersize campaign has become a victim of its own success. Indeed, food companies are coming to realize that, in terms of per-meal product sales, they are quickly approaching the point where the human body simply cannot — or will not — accommodate any more calories in a single sitting. That has left Big Food fretting about a profit-making path forward, and that’s where the innovators at Yum Brands come in. Known for ignoring public health concerns and pioneering weapons-grade junk food, this conglomerate’s subsidiaries have most recently given us the cheeseburger-stuffed pizza (Pizza Hut), the Doritos-shelled taco (Taco Bell), and the “Double Down” (KFC) — a bacon-and-cheese sandwich that replaces bread with slabs of deep-fried chicken. So it should come as no surprise that with the three meals hitting their caloric max-out point, Yum Brands has been leading the effort to add a whole new gorging session to America’s daily schedule.

The campaign is called “fourth meal” and was originally launched in a series of Taco Bell spots telling kids that “everyone is a fourth mealer — some just don’t know it yet.” Now, new “fourth meal” ads are once again popping up all over television, insisting that “sometimes the best dinner is after dinner.” The ads are backed by an eponymous website and a “cravinator” smartphone app that helps binge eaters select their junk food of choice. Though the “fourth meal” campaign has been ongoing since 2006, it is particularly notable today because it proves that such marketing will persist even as the obesity epidemic becomes a full- fledged, headline-grabbing emergency. And it persists, of course, because these kinds of ads are wholly unregulated and tend to deliver for the food industry. Social science data illustrate that latter truism. In 2010 and 2011, for instance, researchers from Yale University and Texas A&M University both found that fast-food ads successfully change kids’ eating expectations and shape their culinary desires. Likewise, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported, “that greater familiarity with fast-food restaurant advertising on television is associated with obesity,” likely because kids who see the ads develop “food consumption patterns that include many types of high-calorie food brands” being advertised. In terms of cultural change, then, Yum Brands is making a shrewd long-term investment in an eating revolution. Sure, it may for now seem like a stretch. But when the next obese generation believes “fourth meal” is equal to breakfast, lunch and dinner, don’t be surprised — and don’t ask why. The answer is on your television set, your web browser, and your smartphone screen.”

In Taco Bell’s case, this is especially glaringly evident. Taco Bell’s motto isn’t Live Sensibly, it’s Live Mas (aka more). Their currently featured product isn’t non-GMO sustainable vegetarian nachos with a USDA recommended caloric count of approximately 450 for an item of this kind, it’s the GMO-friendly XXL Steak Nachos with a gut-busting caloric count of over 1160 of which half comes from fat. Regarding their willingness to use GMO products, the Yum! Brands, Inc. site reads, “Perceptions of the risks and benefits of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) vary from market to market around the globe and we strictly follow all government regulations wherever we operate. In North America, GMOs are generally accepted (BTW – this isn’t true. No consumer truly accepts GMO’s. The corporations have just been successful thus far at keeping them legal via propaganda and bought and paid for politicians, but this will change.). In Europe, consumers are more resistant to GMOs. Where resistance to GMOs exists, Yum! Restaurants International requires all its suppliers to provide non-GMO ingredients.

(Section B above) – On their site, Yum! Brands, Inc. states the following:

“At Yum! Brands, we passionately believe in our commitment to people, the environment, and society as a whole. We are dedicated to our associates, our customers and the communities in which we do business. We aspire to be the best in the world at building great brands and running great restaurants. And we’re committed to making a positive difference by serving the world.”

To prove this claim, the Yum! Brands, Inc. site states:

“Since World Hunger Relief launched in 2007, more than one million of the Company’s employees, franchisees and their families have volunteered millions of hours to aid hunger relief efforts in communities worldwide. The effort has raised $115 million for WFP and other hunger relief organizations.”

Divided over the last five years, that’s 23 million per year raised for WFP. Not all of that money comes from Yum! Brands, Inc., but even if it did, if you compared that 23 million per year average to the over 12 billion in revenue Yum! Brands, Inc. produced from 2011 alone, the amount given to WFP would be only about .001% (or one-tenth of 1%) of Yum! Brands, Inc.’s income. Why does Yum! Brands, Inc. tout this as some grand achievement of their “huge heart”? Shouldn’t they be embarrassed it isn’t more? Also, just out of curiosity, for the life of the program how much has Yum! Brands Foundation matched for associates here in the U.S.? For the life of the program, how much has Yum! Brands Foundation matched for associates abroad (e.g., China, India, and elsewhere)? I guess we’ll never know.