Sean Van Staden
Columnist
3 minute read
29 Mar 2014
12:00 pm

Have you been spun a big fat lie?

Sean Van Staden

Somewhere along the line, I think we are getting it all wrong when it comes to food.

Sean van Staden

Can you blame yourself for choosing the wrong foods all the time? Can you blame yourself for wanting a value meal that doesn’t pack a punch on the wallet and can you really blame clothing manufacturers for making clothing sizes smaller each year? Is it really your fault?

Let’s try lighten the mood, and since it is a Saturday, I am going to play a game with you. I will throw out a list of words or phrases and I need you to call out the first word that comes to mind.

The context is food and if I had to describe food as well-balanced, real, good and wholesome, what are you thinking? How about fresh, juicy, mouth-watering, delicious or just plain scrumptious? I don’t know about you but I am starting to get hungry.

If you described healthy, nutritious food groups then there still might be hope for you but if you bellowed out your favourite fast food joints like McDonald’s, Steers and KFC, then I am afraid you would have been subjected to clever marketing campaigns.

All the words I have mentioned can be found in one shape or form in adverts by these and other fast food chains. What does this mean to the consumer? Well, if you mentioned healthy food associated with the words above, then perhaps your favourite fast food joint must be healthy too, right? Wrong, this is precisely what they want you to think.

Advertising has become so crafty. When I researched possible healthier options by these fast food chains I came across McDonald’s VeggiWrap. Sounds healthy, right? Then the tiny subtext starts to come into focus – Veggiwrap comes with fries and a coke. Not only are you getting a delicious, healthy and nutritious wrap, but you are also getting a bargain with it as well. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want a bargain in this day and age.

Here is some food for thought, and possibly the reason the world is getting fatter. Let’s put aside that the world’s food industry runs on sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and let’s look to the masterminds behind the madness. Fast food giants lure kids and tempt parents to purchase their product with a high quality toy accompanied with kids’ meals.

If that is not bad enough, these companies used elite athletes who symbolise health, power and status to carry their message across. Like using famous Leo Messi in a pictorial advert holding a bucket of fried chicken with a heading “When it’s that good there must be a secret! – world’s best footballer.” Let’s not forget Ronaldo. He is also holding a bucket of fried chicken with the heading: “Share the taste, share the passion.” If the world’s best athletes are eating fried chicken, then you guess it must be okay to feed your family and kids.

Tobacco companies had millions of rands to spend on advertising but they were denied the privilege by the Minister of Health due to future health concerns.

If I placed you in a hypothetical situation where you needed a large sum of money to take your son and his talented soccer team on an overseas trip to compete in a world junior tournament; the prize: potential for scouts to sign some players for long-term development with a professional club.

The downside to the whole deal is it costs so much money that no one would sponsor it other than a tobacco company. Would you take their sponsorship money?

Let’s say you do because this is a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity, could you live with the fact that one day your child could possibly take up smoking?