Today in the apartment, I picked up a Time Magazine from August 6, 2007 that the former resident left in the cupboard. In it, there was a this blurb stating,
McDonald's Supersize soda just got a friendlier name. Hugo is the new name for the 42-oz. (1.25 L) soft drink, which has more than 400 calories. The move is somewhat of a U-turn for the chain, which saw sales quadruple over the past four years thanks to healthy options like salads and apple dippers. Now critics say that McDonald's is returning to its weighty ways. It is advertising Hugo in several languages and critics accuse it of targeting the low cost cup to minorities, who are disporportionately overweight.
When the chain first opened up in 1955, the largest soda was 7 oz. (about 200 mL). McDonald's execs defend the Hugo, six times the sized of of the original, as just a summer promotion.
This makes me crazy. Who the hell needs a liter and a quarter of soda in a single serving container? I know all you free-market-people out there will just tell me that the market can dictate what a company does and doesn't sell. However, there is also a market for crack, but you don't want your neighborhood 7-11 to sell that, right?
I'm not just hacked at McDonalds for selling a soda with enough calories to be a meal by itself. I'm also pissed at the ignorance of the American consumer who buys this garbage. As someone who has battled her weight practically her whole life, I'm mad at the choices available to me and also at myself for succumbing to certain of those choices.
I was talking with my roommate yesterday about groceries in Italy and France. It's pretty spendy. However, what are DIRT CHEAP are fruits and vegetables. Yesterday, I bought one etto (100 g) of proscuitto cotto, one etto of proscuitto crudo, a two-pack of yogurt, milk, a small package of frozen fish (2 pieces), and biscotti and little toast crackers. The total was 18E, which was really surprising (about $25). However, when I went out to the market square and bought fruits and vegetables (to cover the same number of days as the other food I bought), it cost me less than 5E. Good, healthy food is cheap here. Unhealthier foods are more expensive.
It seems like the inverse is true in the U.S. Processed, garbage foods are cheaper than healthy foods. I could feed Marlo a double cheeseburger and fries for $2 off McDonald's Dollar Menu. However, to feed her a salad, fish, green beans, and brown rice, would cost much more than that.
It's a catch-22 because I want companies to make it easier for AVERAGE Americans to eat healthier, but companies won't do it until there is a market for it. Until there is a market for it, it remains expensive, which keeps it out of reach of the average American. Thus, no market is created.
I wish there was a hybrid market economy: supply, demand AND social responsibility. Considering 66% of Americans are overweight, we might as well allow 7-11's to sell crack if we are going to allow McDonalds to sell people chemical water with 32 teaspoons of sugar.