Most people have been to McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, or any number of favorite fast food restaurants. Our first experience is either as a young child when our parents seek to provide relief from proper parenting, by purchasing some “happy meal,” where the purpose of the food is anchored in the toy included in the meal or our attempt to save some money during our growing up years. Thus, the last 30 years we have seen a surge in the growth in the fast food industry in markets globally, where fast food formats have become infused into the diets and cultures of peoples around the world in what I call the “Mac-Do” effect. That is: traditional culinary delights in many countries have been displaced by french fries, cheap hamburgers, soda’s and deserts and with each emerging generation some sort of sick homogenization of a poor global diet has emerged, leading to poor health and dietary behaviors, and a loss of thousands of years of culinary perfection.
I’m sure executives of fast food chains don’t have a hidden agenda to destroy culinary excellence, and lately many have diversified their menu’s to include healthy alternatives, yet I believe the damage has already been done. Young children and youth globally often prefer a diet laden with bread and sugars over traditional foods. In many asian countries, for example, young people are consuming alternate foods that “taste better,” and no longer eat rice and fish. In western cultures, the migration from vegetables and local meats and dairy have given way to sodas and fried foods. But the problem goes well beyond fast food restaurants but includes choices of beverages and snacks. Coca Cola, for example, leads the way as a drink choice over water or juice, and even as a juice choice, most turn to processed juices with corn syrup and have little “fruit” in them, if at all. They are less expensive, and in developing countries where income is spent on energy, housing, and electronics, there is often little “leftover” to help pay for good food.
The “Mac-Do” effect has also changed the way the food industry works. Instead of large local farms producing food aligned by centuries of genetic cultivation, large corporate entities now produce low cost ingredients making alien foods cheaper to manufacture and consume. While not all of these foods are represented in the fast food menu, they are profoundly represented in grocery stores and local shops, nearly completely displacing tradition food in marketplaces for younger generations.
The net effect is both a high caloric diet of non-native foods, but densely calorically packed cheap foods, low in nutrition leading to disease and dietary complications including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. But more profound is the loss of generations of culinary mastered dishes and dietary flavors, that for centuries aligned to the dietary requirements both nutritional and in a medicinal capacity. Younger generations find their tastes are changing and with it the benefits of thousands of years of culinary perfection.
In a recent article, a study shows diabetes and obesity linked to a number of nearby fast-food outlets: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/11/diabetes-obesity-fast-food-outlets-study More emerging research support this and other studies.
The solution to this may exist in re-localizing food choices, in a return to native foods, but the pressure from a profit-centered economy built around food is enormous and dynamically powerful. The “Mac-Do” effect may be stopped through education programs both proactive by groups and councils to promote proper diet and by reacting to nutritions decay of world health populations now more susceptible to “cheap food.” Either way, times are changing, and some foods are disappearing and are being changed, if we recognize this, we may be able to change it. For me, I hope we can retain the perfection in a diverse food marketplace, and personally, I resist the homogenization of a global food economy by always selecting local dishes as much as possible.