I'm a Popeye's girl myself but I figure if somebody is going to pick on The Colonel, at least, there should be some facts.
The New York Times has this headline on a page one story today:
Obesity Was Rising as Ghana Embraced Fast Food. Then Came KFC
So you gather from this headline that Kentucky Fried Chicken is putting pounds on Ghanaians.
Now, that may be the case. Or it may not. We don't know.
There is not a single fact or statistic in the story to indicate that this is the case. What there is is a sneering contempt for the American company–and a hint that innocent people are somehow tricked into eating fried chicken. As Mr. Kurtz observed in a different context: the horror.
The story says that KFC’s expansion in Ghana "comes as obesity and related health problems have been surging." But it doesn't make the point that obesity and related health problems are coming as a result of the advent of KFC, which arrived on the scene when obesity already was on the rise. There is no evidence of how KFC is related to Ghanaian obesity:
Public health officials see fried chicken, french fries and pizza as spurring and intensifying a global obesity epidemic that has hit hard in Ghana — one of 73 countries where obesity has at least doubled since 1980. In that period, Ghana’s obesity rates have surged more than 650 percent, from less than 2 percent of the population to 13.6 percent, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent research center at the University of Washington.
The causes of obesity are widely acknowledged as complex — involving changing lifestyles, genetics, and, in particular, consumption of processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat.
KFC’s presence in Ghana so far is relatively modest but rapidly growing, and it underscores the way fast food can shape palates, habits and waistlines.
But given the complexity of the causes of obesity, acknowledged in the story, the modest growth of KFC in Ghana doesn't "underscore" anything more than that a lot of people seem to like fried chicken. Some generic studies on obesity are quoted:
Research shows that people who eat more fast food are more likely to gain weight and become obese, and nutrition experts here express deep concern at the prospect of an increasingly heavy and diabetic population, without the medical resources to address a looming health crisis that some say could rival AIDS.
"You are what you eat," said Charles Agyemang, a Ghanaian who is now professor at the University of Amsterdam, where he studies obesity and chronic disease. KFC alone, he said, is only one factor in the country’s obesity epidemic, but it represents the embrace of western foods. In Ghana, he said, “eating local foods in some places is frowned upon. People see the European type as civilized.”
“This is having a major impact on obesity and heart disease.”
The bolded sentence shows just how flimsily the allegations of the story are bolstered: KFC alone is not the only factor, but it "represents the embrace of western foods." Let's have a stat or two.
Embracing western foods = bad, apparently, to New York Times reporters. In addition to taste, the woefully ignorant Ghanaians are bewitched by cleanliness:
KFC emphasizes its focus on food sanitation and cleanliness. Ghanaian customers interviewed spoke appreciatively of the tidy containers used for takeout and the hairnets worn by workers.
Imagine that–people like the cleanliness of the food served by an American corporation!
Western elites no doubt believe Ghanaians should subsist on such colorful native dishes as fermented corn and casseva.
But the Ghanaians themselves are making different choices, as people often do, and until better evidence against KFC is presented, I hope they enjoy some finger licking goodness.