Why fast food should be regulated for human beings

Why fast food should be regulated for human beings

Across the world, fast food has become a prominent mainstay food. It has been a regular from the time of the pre-industrial old world, such as ancient Roman antiquity. During the medieval period and the industrial age, ready-to-cook meals were prevalent in China, Iraq, and European cities such as London and Paris.

Fast food can be considered to have become standardised and business-like following the opening of the Fish and Chips shop in Britain in 1860. It has since evolved in the following years and has become a multibillion-dollar food chain sub-sector. This can be attributed to the franchise operations of fast-food restaurants globally, which are part of restaurant chains that either has standardised foodstuffs shipped to each restaurant from central locations or the meals are prepared at each location.

This fast-food menu has become so popular globally that children of the wealthy and the middle-class demand that their parents/guardians purchase it for them constantly. Some children get their wish and, as a result, seemingly become addicted to it. It is also the same scenario for many workers, who just grab an item or a parcel of the menu to consume and hurriedly leave for their workplaces.

With fast food now apparently a part of the basic food menu, the questions to be asked are: is it healthy for human beings? should its consumption be regulated?

Meaning of fast food

Fast food is a type of mass-produced food which is prepared and served quickly. It is designed for commercial sale, with priority given to the speed at which the meal is prepared and served to the consumer over any other relevant factors. The meals are usually frozen, pre-heated, or pre-cooked and contain a high amount of sugar, salt, calories, and saturated or trans fats.

These fast-food meals are packaged primarily to customers in take-away packs – which are made up of cartons, and plastic bags or plates – and served in outlets known as fast-food restaurants. These restaurants may offer their services to customers in the following formats: sit-down (restaurants, stands, or kiosks), counter service, take-out, drive-through, and delivery. The meals are quickly made and served in seconds or a maximum of 10 minutes. In this era of pre-ordering, the meals prepared in five or ten minutes can be picked by a consumer in just about a minute.

Whenever people are hungry and on the run, fast food, also known as junk food, becomes not just an alternative but a major food source for them. Aside from its fast preparation and serving, fast food has become popular because it is inexpensive, convenient, and tastes good.

As earlier mentioned, the fast-food sub-sector of the food chain is a multibillion-dollar one. According to publicly available data, the fast-food industry was worth an estimated $570 billion globally as of 2018.

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Popular fast foods in Nigeria

Like in other parts of the world, fast food is trendy in Nigeria. There are many fast-food restaurants located in every state of the country. In addition, many stands, kiosks, and street vendors are also positioned strategically where pedestrians walk (e.g., near office buildings, filling stations, pedestrian bridges, bus stops, traffic light junctions, etc.), thereby making it accessible for them to get these meals.

Popular fast meals sold to consumers in Nigeria include:

  • Fish and chips
  • Chicken and chips
  • French fries
  • Sandwiches
  • Hamburgers
  • Doughnut
  • Fried chicken
  • Meat pie
  • Chicken pie
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Sausage roll
  • Pizza
  • Egg roll
  • Hot dogs
  • Noodles
  • Shawarmas
  • Burrito
  • Ice cream
  • Biscuit and cookies
  • Bacon
  • Pancake
  • Baguette
  • Muffin

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Is fast food healthy?

Some types of fast food are considered to be healthier than others. But despite being quickly prepared, cheap, and tasty, fast food is generally known to be low in nutritional value. Therefore, fast food can be said to be extremely unhealthful, especially when it is consumed regularly. The side effects of consuming junk foods are so numerous that it overtrumps the advantages.

Some of them are listed below:

Low in nutritional value

As mentioned earlier, its various meals contain a high amount of sugar, salt, calories, and saturated or trans fats. Therefore, fast food largely lacks nutrients such as vegetables, fruits, vitamins, and fibre. Although there might be some healthy products, the most popular fast foods are considered to be unhealthy and non-nutritional.

Causes serious health issues

Fast food has been associated with the development and spread of cardiovascular diseases, colorectal cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and stroke. It also preempts certain abnormal conditions in an individual’s body like obesity, high cholesterol, insulin resistance condition, and depression.

All these are spiked by the low nutritional value of the meals, as they contain little or no vegetables and other relevant ingredients.

Causes adverse effects on the body

Another health problem associated with fast food is that it harms the bodies of individuals. It affects the respiratory, nervous, reproductive, digestive, integumentary, and skeletal systems of consumers who regularly have a bite of fast food.

Causes addiction and irregular eating patterns

Fast food is known to spike the energy level of individuals. Upon consumption, the most immediate effect is the increase in the energy levels of individuals, which enables them to reach their peak in terms of physical activity.

However, this sudden increase in energy, in addition to the sweetened taste of the meals, tempts individuals to purchase more fast food, and this causes individuals to develop irregular eating patterns and subsequently leads to such people’s addiction and dependence on fast food only. The love of the taste and the energy levels derived from certain fast food products causes people to be at great risk of becoming addicted to these meals.

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Causes drowsiness and sleeping disorder

Consumption of fast food causes drowsiness and, therefore, inhibits the ability of individuals to concentrate on tasks at certain times. The reason for this is not far-fetched: the meals sometimes contain excess oil and calories and are, therefore, not easy to digest. The lack of digestion causes drowsiness as individuals feel to become more sleepy and lethargic. This subsequently leads to sleeping disorders.

Individuals tend to become overweight

Fast food contains a large number of calories and fats. As a result, consuming just one meal of any fast food type means that individuals may have likely consumed all the calories needed for that day.

Therefore, consuming any other fast food or regular food on that particular day will increase the calories consumed. This translates to a gradual increase in weight, especially if the individual in question does not watch what he or she eats and does not engage him or herself in gruelling, physical tasks, which act as checks and balances in burning out some of the calories amassed.

Should fast food be regulated?

Having highlighted the associated risks of consuming healthy food above, it is unequivocally clear that fast food needs an iota of regulation. In reality, however, it is virtually impossible to dictate to consumers, especially adults, the type of food they should eat. Also, fast food chains have begun updating their menus to include more nutritious options.

Therefore, the best regulatory option that the Nigerian government can adopt is to implement a tax regime for fast food. The tax should be similar to the Sweetened Beverage Tax, for which the Federal Government recently placed an excise duty of N10 per litre on all non-alcoholic, carbonated, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Such a tax will be borne by the end-user, the consumer, and will help tackle the reduction of diseases and obesity. With the approval and implementation of such a tax, consumers will be forced to be wary of their fast food purchases so that they do not incur and pay more taxes.

On the part of individuals, they can self-regulate their consumption of fast food through the following:

  • Have a bite of a defined portion of fast food at least twice every week
  • Drink more water rather than consuming ice cream or soft drinks frequently
  • Switch to whole grains such as wheat bread, brown rice, and oats. This will help you avoid processed grains high in empty carbohydrates
  • Consume more lean protein meals
  • Go for food that is broiled, steamed, or grilled rather than fried
  • Ensure you have a balanced diet by combining fast food with more fruits and vegetables.

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Gabriel is a trained political scientist, and a qualified and versatile communications professional who has worked as a journalist and Public Relations executive. He has a knack for content creation and development and is a keen digital native interested in all things good.
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