CHINA

China scaring kids out of fast food chains

Look carefully at this picture. If you weren't scared of feeding a burger to your six-year-old, you might be now. The ad is part of an awareness campaign launched by the Chinese authorities, who are dealing with an ever-widening population. At the same time however, Beijing city centre is just about to open its first ever Burger King. Read more...

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Look carefully at this picture. If you weren't scared of feeding a burger to your six-year-old, you might be now. The ad is part of an awareness campaign launched by the Chinese authorities, who are dealing with an ever-widening population. At the same time however, Beijing city centre is just about to open its first ever Burger King.

While the city of Shanghai is abuzz with preparations for the 2010 World Expo, Beijingers have another thing on their minds: Burger King. Although other fast-food chains exist in the capital, aside from the one rather inconvenient station at the airport, Beijing proper is currently not home to Burger King's whopper. A much-anticipated first outlet of the fast food chain however, is supposed to debut soon in the commercial area of Xidan. Major restaurant review website Dianpin has already devoted an entire page to the new Burger King, on which eager meat-eating minions are readily expressing their enthusiasm for its huangbao, or "emperor burger". 

Although true to its name, this Chinese version of the whopper may be fit for a modern day emperor, but after eating the huangbao, will the emperor still fit into his clothes? Before Burger King even opens, the Chinese are already facing an obesity problem, with one in six, or 215 million people, overweight or obese. This still remains relatively low compared with Western countries however - even in France, almost one in three people are classed as overweight.

“What seems to be fairly consistent amongst Beijingers is their penchant for dining out”

Carlynn Sze is a Chinese-American clinical dietician who previously worked at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. She now works in Beijing.

What seems to be fairly consistent amongst Beijingers - whether local, expatriates, or Chinese from other provinces, is their penchant for dining out. And food from restaurants and fast food chains does tend to be higher in fat, oil and salt.

Energy intake from animal sources [meat and dairy products] amongst people from urban areas increased from 8 to 25 percent between 1982 and 2002, and the average intake of dietary fat has risen from 25 to 35 percent of energy (above the recommended 30 percent).

The 2002 China Health and Nutrition Survey estimated that around 215 million Chinese people were overweight or obese. The rate of this increase is particularly eye-opening - from 1992 to 2002 the prevalence of overweight adults increased by nearly 40% and that of obesity doubled. And in rural areas, where 60% of the population lives, it went up two to three-fold over just 10 years.

These ads are so eye-opening- it will at least stimulate conversation. If we can start educating people about the detrimental effects of poor eating habits (i.e frequent fast food consumption), perhaps the rates of childhood obesity will stop rising."

The campaign

Two more of the set of awareness ads, produced by the Beijing Women and Children's Development Foundation and released in October.

Glass in the chocolate sauce, pins in the jelly, needles in the biscuit. The text reads: "Can you be so sure of her safety?"

Note the mines in the ground. "Are you really aware of the world your child is in?"

“Although the majority of Chinese are trim...”

Roseann Lake is an American expat living in Beijing. She took the following photos.

Burgers and fries aside, you can find street food - usually fried - in every alleyway of Beijing.

Two common breakfast and after-work snack foods. Above, a bun-less version of an egg McMuffin (fried egg and ham cooked in batter) and below, an oversized, fried, savoury doughnut.  

Walking down any major street in Beijing, you can see that, although the majority of Chinese are trim, especially by western standards, there are always a few exceptions...