Monday, September 11, 2006


Fast-food chains are having it their way again, and loving it. Despite the best efforts of healthy-eating campaigners it seems that they are losing the battle against junk food. The burger is back - and restaurants are throwing away thousands of salads a day. A Times survey in six British cities this week confirmed that the industry's brief flirtation with healthy eating is over.

During a day of observation in branches of McDonald's, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken only two customers in Manchester and one in London ordered a salad. No one in Newcastle, Bristol, Birmingham or Maidstone was tempted. Sales of other healthy options such as "grapple bags" of apple slices, carrot sticks and fruit juice were only slightly better, and in several restaurants there were no fresh salad options in stock at all. Hassan Ahmed, the manager of the Burger King on Martineau Way in Birmingham, said that his customers were not interested in using the restaurant to pursue the "healthy, balanced diet" endorsed on the company's website. "We buy in three cases of salad each week. I only order them in because I have to. But we bin most of them at the end of the week because they don't sell. "It's the same with the bags of fruit, we waste more than we sell. Last week we sold 28 salads and it's usually about half that."

The picture is the same in fast-food restaurants across the country. Damian Wills, the manager of a McDonald's in Filton, Bristol, said that his customers had stopped ordering salads as soon as the novelty wore off. "As with most promotions, when they were introduced they were `the flavour of the month' - and about a month later people had moved on. People will always go for chips over lettuce." A Burger King spokesman said that salads were a "very small part of our sales".

Salads and sandwiches make up less than 10 per cent of McDonald's sales. As Steve Easterbrook, the president of McDonald's UK, announced this year: "We are a burger business. Our traditional menu - hamburger, cheeseburger, Big Mac, quarterpounder, chicken sandwich - is front and centre of our plans." He probably would not have said that a year ago at the height of Jamie Oliver's school dinners campaign and amid the success of Morgan Spurlock's stomach-churning documentary Super Size Me, which raised awareness of the health risks posed by fast food.

This came after a period of sustained pressure on the fast-food industry, during which McDonald's reported its first loss in almost 50 years and restaurant chains were forced into concessions to healthy-eating campaigners, including providing more varied menus and publishing extensive nutritional and sourcing information about their products.

Now it appears that the industry has weathered the storm. A ban on junk food advertising for children is no nearer despite Britain having the highest level of obesity and the highest rate of "on-the-go" eating in Europe. Oliver is reduced to swearing at parents for continuing to feed their children fatty foods and sugary fizzy drinks despite all the warnings.

Predictably, the counter-attack against healthy eating is fiercest in the United States. A new generation of "indulgent offerings" for the hungrier American has culminated in the Burger King Stacker Quad: four beef patties, four slices of cheese, four strips of bacon and no vegetables in a bun. It contains 1,000 calories and as much saturated fats as one person should consume in a day and a half, according to US government recomendations. Fast-food companies say that they are merely providing what their customers want. "We listened to consumers who said they wanted to eat fresh fruit," a spokesman for Wendy's, an American burger chain, said. "Apparently they lied."



A cure for allergies that affects millions including asthma and hayfever will be available within the next few years, experts have revealed. Cutting-edge research from around the world will yield a treatment for hay fever by 2009, with a cure for asthma following shortly afterwards. Treatments for potentially fatal food allergies are also in the pipeline - and vaccines capable of preventing a host of dehabilitating conditions in a single jab could be available in just ten years. The injections, pills - and even drops that dissolve under the tongue - will transform the lives of the millions of Britons whose lives are blighted by conditions from hay fever to potentially lethal nut allergies.

Researcher Dr Ronald van Ree said: 'This is not science fiction, it is realistic.' Jonathan Brostoff, Professor of Allergy at King's College London, said he believed treatments for peanut allergy based on manmade proteins have 'a big future'. Vaccines could be even more successful. 'If there is an effective vaccine for peanut allergy, it will transform the lives of patients,' he said. 'If there was a vaccine that was amazingly effective for all asthma and all hay fever, then who wouldn't want in on it? Anything that improves the lives of allergy sufferers is a boon.'

The astonishing news comes as the health service spends 1billion pounds a year struggling to cope with an allergy epidemic, with one in three Britons - 18million people - developing an allergy in their lifetime. Rates of asthma have doubled in the last 20 years, with the condition affecting five million people in England alone. Figures for hay fever have also soared, with one in four Britons suffering an allergy to pollen. There has also been a sharp rise in anaphylaxis, the most severe form of allergic reaction, with more than 3,000 people taken to hospital and up to 20 dying last year.

The research, which is being conducted at labs around the world, centres around finding ways to or dampen down allergic reactions. Symptoms, such as rashes, itching and swelling, occur when the immune system reacts badly to a food, a pollen or something else 'foreign' to the body. Scientists have worked out that the problem lies not in the entire food or pollen grain, but in proteins that form just a small part of them. They are now looking for the key proteins, studying their structures and then recreating them in harmless forms. Injected into the body, these manmade proteins could prevent the immune system from going into overdrive the next time it encounters a rogue pollen or food.

French and German firms have successfully identified the critical proteins in pollen and are now testing a treatment on humans. The result could be an effective hay fever treatment in three to five years. A therapy for asthma is expected to follow shortly afterwards, the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich heard yesterday. In New York, scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital are making inroads into the protein responsible for peanut allergy. Other researchers are trying to tackle the problem by keeping the immune system in check.

Studies have shown that people regularly exposed to bacteria and other germs - such as farmers who drink unpasteurised milk - are up to ten times less likely to develop allergies. It is thought that some of the bacteria in the milk dampen down the immune system, and so prevent it from reacting badly to pollen and other foreign invaders.

Scientists at Sussex-based drug firm Allergy Therapeutics are among those looking at ways to coax these bugs into keeping the immune system in check. Dr van Ree, of Amsterdam University, said the two approaches will be combined by the end of the decade - creating a cure for hay fever. 'I think that is realistic within three to five years,' he said. 'For peanut allergy, from the product in the lab to the product in the market, we will need at least seven years.' Pills for shellfish and other food allergies would follow....

More here


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only.

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.


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