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Global Junk Food poster


Film Screening/Discussion

Global Junk Food

Directed by Camille Le Pomellec • Produced by Babel Doc Motion Pictures and Film

Wednesday, February, 2020
7:00 - 9:30 P.M.
Griffin Gate (Building 60, southwest outside corner of the Student Center)
film runtime: 52 min. | CC [Closed Caption]


In Europe, food manufacturers have signed up to "responsibility pledges," promising no added sugar, preservatives, artificial colours or flavours and not to target children. So why are they using tactics banned in the West in the developing world? There, they have created ultra low cost products with higher levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats. Filmed in Brazil, India and France, we investigate the new tactics of brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza.

Following the screening, audience members will have the opportunity to engage in a conversation about the issues, sharing their disciplinary questions and answers and "listening to experts" from other disciplines. Finally, they will explore questions and issues in small, multi-disciplinary groups, challenging themselves to deepen their understanding through collaborative inquiry.

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About the Film


Around the world, while the severity of regulations differs, their implementation has indisputably made a difference. In Turkey, for example, tobacco usage decreased 13 percent (1.2 million fewer smokers) between 2008 and 2013 due to a complete ban on advertising in any form. Similar regulations regarding fast food, soda, and other food and drink related to obesity could be enormously effective — and they are just as necessary. In fact, a study done by the World Health Organization has concluded that, at this point in time, government regulation of the fast food market remains the only mechanism by which the global obesity epidemic can be impeded. The Affordable Care Act in 2010 took a step in the right direction by mandating calorie labeling of foods sold in vending machines, amusement parks, and select dining establishments in an attempt to promote consumer awareness. WHO has suggested providing monetary incentives for “healthy” producers and vendors and the opposite for “unhealthy” corporations, but subsidies do not suffice. More needs to be done, and the power of advertising needs to be harnessed to do so.

Of the four so-called “common killers” in the world — heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and lung disease — a whopping 48 percent were a result of heart disease and three percent of diabetes, meaning that obesity-related illnesses or illnesses whose risk factors increase greatly with obesity are responsible for over half of the world’s deaths from noncommunicable diseases. Lung disease and cancer, by contrast, though still obviously significant, together comprise a comparatively low 33 percent (12 percent and 21 percent, respectively). Thus, if the health risks associated with smoking warrant intense regulation, it goes without question that similar standards ought to be applied to fast food and soda, which have proven to be at least just as threatening. Even more frightening is the inevitable augmentation of this threat if nothing is done. As more and more fast food chains keep cropping up around the world, increasing numbers of people will be swept up by their charm: geographical proximity to such joints has proven to be a telling factor that increases the likelihood of obesity. The South African Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, who is advocating for regulations in his country to eliminate trans fats and reduce salts in foods, likens the obesity epidemic to climate change: We all know it’s slowly killing us, but politicians keep kicking the can when it comes to crafting effective solutions.

Once again, we find ourselves in a classic economic debate with competing arguments regarding the scope of government. But, if a market is truly free, it must also take responsibility for its actions. And contributing substantially to a global health epidemic is a serious liability. Surely a reasonable deal of regulation, labeling, and consumer awareness won’t harm corporations to the extent that their organizations become irrelevant, but even so, what’s more important here: global health or corporate profit?

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Last Updated: 02/05/2020


Brendan Praniewicz
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