Americans like to think they’re #1 at everything, but the truth is, the U.S. often tops the rankings in shameful ways. One thing we’ve been the best at for a long time is eating crap. If it’s processed and bad for us, Americans will buy it by the caseload. Unfortunately, other countries are starting to follow our fattening example.
New research estimates that China could surpass the U.S. in its consumption of processed foods by 2015. Despite centuries of eating a fairly healthy diet of mostly†vegetables, rice and seafood, the westernization of China has finally crept into the food supply. Chinese people are eating “more meat, and on top of thatómore packaged, on-the-go food that†comes with additives, artificial flavoring and other chemicals,” reports QZ.
According to estimates from†Euromonitor International, if this trend continues, China will outstrip America’s consumption of processed food in just two short years. As the spending habits of younger Chinese families shift toward more discretionary purchases, demand for the flashy fast-food of the West has also increased.
If the full potential of this trend is realized,†China could consume as much as 107 million tonnes of packaged food, compared to 102 million tonnes in the U.S., reports QZ. However, because of China’s massive population, the average Chinese person will still eat less junk food than the average American. Furthermore, the American market will still be worth more ($369 billion versus an estimated $238 billion in China), but Chinese consumption of these foods will have grown 66 percent from 2008, according to Euromonitor.
This is bad news, not only for the health of the Chinese people (according to the World Health Organization, over 38 percent of Chinese above the age of 15 are overweight, compared to just 7 percent in 1982), but also for the global food system and climate change.
As we’ve seen many times over the years, giant food corporations of the world respond only to demand. If people are spending their money on potato chips and cheeseburgers, that’s what they’re going to supply. This only increases demand for low-quality ingredients produced cheaply through practices that devastate the planet.
And as we recently learned, our exorbitant food waste is the third biggest contributor to global climate change. Cheap food is easily wasted, because neither the manufacturer nor the consumer sees it as a thing of value. If this trend continues in China and the U.S., even more food will be sent to the landfill to rot, generating greenhouse gasses that are killing the planet.
Photo Credit: Geoff White