Should Fast Food Labels Have Warnings Similar to Cigarettes?

Should a Big Mac come with an obesity warning, similar to the cancer warning on a pack of cigarettes? One Australian dad thinks so. (Photo: Game Changer/Facebook) 

Better-health advocate Aaron Schultz is the founder of the Game Changer movement, aiming to fix how fast-food sources tailor their advertising for kids, particularly in relation to the unhealthy choices at sporting events.

“I’m just a normal dad that’s got concerns about unhealthy products being pushed to my children,” he tells The Daily Mail.

One of his goals is to create labels on junk food, clearly laying out the health consequences — similar to what you’d see on today’s tobacco products. As a first step, however, he wants ingredient lists to come standard on fast-food packaging, detailing information on food sources and if it’s been treated with chemicals or hormones.

“We’re heading down the wrong path at a rapid rate. Certainly food labelling is a key step to people making informed decisions on what they’re eating,”Schultz says. “We don’t have the capacity for people to make informed decisions because there’s no labelling.”

Would this actually work help keep kids healthier? 

Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet, isn’t convinced. “I don’t think we can say one Big Mac will make big children,”she says of Schultz’s controversial packaging idea. “The answer is really in portion sizes and moderation.”

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Gans says she’s all for ingredient transparency, and people crave that these days — but beyond that, the territory is murky. “If you go online, the ingredient lists are there already, but I could get on board with an ingredient list on the packaging,” she says. “What I cannot get on board with is a warning label. For instance, would you have to constantly change that, based on where the food is sourced? Where do you draw the line?

Gans also points out that most people probably recognize that McDonald’s or Burger King isn’t the healthiest choice. “The majority of consumers know what they’re getting into with fast food,” she says. “And they’re choosing to eat it anyway.”

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Ultimately, Gans stresses moderation and balanced diets, for kids and adults, and does give kudos to fast-food establishments for the changes they’ve already made in offering better-for-you options—like Burger King, which quietly removed soft drinks from its kids menus earlier this month.

“Most kids are eating those kids meals, not Big Macs, and these places have done a lot to improve those so there are healthier choices,”Gans says. “I think we need to focus on the good happening here, too.”

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