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Delivery Apps Cripple EU Drive To Curb Obesity

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the proliferation of food delivery services is driving the persistent growth of obesity across Europe. This at a time when EU and UK countries are striving to stem the epidemic. And kids are apparently in the forefront of the problem…

Not Funny Fat European - © funnyjunk.comNot! The obesity epidemic in Europe is such a widely-known phenomenon
that folks are making fun of it. And apparently even the wild animals
are also fat: Like the round European Robin at top of this page…

A recent BBC article opens with a stark, shocking truth: “No European country is on track to stop obesity rising by 2025, the WHO says. […] Nearly 60 percent of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese – and the Covid pandemic has made that worse.”

We all know how COVID has encouraged sedentary, stay-home lifestyles, which in turn have led to a rise in overweight and obesity. But WHO says there’s more.

Yes, it’s that bad

The WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022 brings us many worrying findings, not the least of which is that Europe and the UK are second only to the United States in overweight and obesity. Almost 60 percent of adults and a third of children in WHO’s European Region are overweight or obese, promoting the organization to use the world ‘epidemic’ prominently in its report.

WHO tells us that obesity is the root cause of more than 1.2 million deaths – a third of all deaths – in Europe each year. Overweight and obesity have been widely implicated as causal in 13 types of cancer, heart disease, some lung diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

Enter, food delivery apps

WHO says they’re just making it easier for people to take in excess calories and gravitate towards the ‘wrong’ kind of food. And growth in the use of these apps, particularly by kids, parallels the growth in obesity in that age group. It’s just too easy for a kid, playing a video game, to pause it and click over to a food app, and order up something greasy, sugary and/or salty. And put it on Mom or Dad’s tab. And computer gaming is also on the rise, having been given a kick-start by the conditions and circumstances of COVID isolation.

The BBC story puts it in terms we can all understand: “UK research suggests eating a takeaway meal means consuming 200 more calories per day, on average, than food prepared at home. Over the course of a week, this could mean a child eating the equivalent of an extra day’s worth of calories.”

What can you do?

The obvious answer to the kids’ obesity explosion is to limit their access to computer games and to food delivery apps. How? WHO makes no comment on that.

But some jurisdictions in the organization’s European theatre are enacting regulations designed to get at the problem from the other direction. For example, the UK is already requiring ‘large restaurants and cafés’ (i.e.l;, fast food chains) to display Calorie information on their in-store menu boards. This fall, BOGO promotions by Fast Food purveyors will be outlawed. The experts say those encourage diners to buy 20 percent more food – to consume 20 percent more Calories – than they need. And a plan has recently been approved to ban electronic junk food advertising before 9:00 p.m. How they’ll enforce that on the internet remains to be seen.

WHO has a suggestion…

The organization says the electronic technologies that are driving exploding childhood obesity can be harnessed to treat the problem. I can see government regulators requiring the embedding of positive dietary signals and ‘healthy’ product placements in games, and requiring online ordering systems to clearly label unhealthy food as such. Not to mention offering healthy menu alternatives and pricing them lower than the usual junk food options.

My take

Okay. But we live in the real world. Who’s going to try to force game developers to toe that line? In the U.S., where they sue Fast Food restos because the coffee is too hot, it would probably result in a Supreme Court case involving the First Amendment – the right to freedom of speech. And just try to tell ordering services and the restos they represent what they can and can’t – or have to – sell.

WHO agrees that obesity is ‘a complex disease’, and that what folks eat is just half the problem: the decrease in physical activity (exercise) that accompanies it in the electronic gaming and food ordering lifestyle is just as important.

But the bottom line: WHO admits that a previously agreed target among the organization’s European Region countries, to stop obesity rising in that region by 25 percent by 2025, will definitely not be met. In fact, thanks in significant measure to food ordering apps, it’s still on the rise in all countries and all age groups.

~ Maggie J.

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