Fast food ads ‘promote unhealthy eating in Gulf’

Almost half of Gulf residents report that being exposed to fast food adverts — particularly those on TV — is making it harder for them to make healthy food choices. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018
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Fast food ads ‘promote unhealthy eating in Gulf’

  • Almost half of Gulf residents report that being exposed to fast food adverts — particularly those on TV — is making it harder for them to make healthy food choices
  • The survey found that 87 percent of people think that TV advertising affects children’s current food choices

Rebecca Spong LONDON: Exposure to fast food ads is contributing to poor eating habits in the Gulf, new research has found.
Almost half of Gulf residents report that being exposed to fast food adverts — particularly those on TV — is making it harder for them to make healthy food choices, according to a survey by YouGov Omnibus.
Over two-thirds of respondents living in Kuwait — the Gulf country with the highest levels of obesity — said that advertising was swaying them toward less healthy options.
Respondents were particularly concerned about children bring overly exposed to fast food TV advertising — with nearly a quarter saying their child asks for fast food after watching an advert.
The survey found that 87 percent of people think that TV advertising affects children’s current food choices and will influence their food choices as they grow up.
A total of four in five people think there should be laws regulating the level of fast food advertising during hours where children are most likely to watch television.
The survey found that two-thirds of people said buying fast food is an “impulsive” decision. This was typical behavior reported in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — the top three countries in the Middle East with the highest levels of obesity — where 70 percent said they bought fast food on impulse.
While the research found that four in five people said they knew that eating fast food leads to weight gain, there seems little sign that people in the region are working to reduce their intake, said Kerry McLaren, the regional head of YouGov Omnibus.
“YouGov data shows that although people are aware of the adverse effects of eating fast food and show general concern in lack of controls around its advertising, there is no direct resistance in overall consumption of fast food,” she said.
“In today’s society there is an expectation to be increasingly conscious of what we put in our bodies and yet this is not reflected in the communication we receive.
“Obesity rates are increasing, especially in the Middle East, so it is important for brands to be more responsible in their messaging and the imagery used in advertisements as it can have a significant impact on the food choices consumers make.”
Kuwait has an obesity rate of 37.9 percent according to World Health Organization statistics compiled in 2016, while the rate in Saudi Arabia and Qatar stood at 35.4 percent and 35.1 percent respectively.


News anchors join New Zealand women wearing headscarves for mosque attack victims

Updated 22 March 2019
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News anchors join New Zealand women wearing headscarves for mosque attack victims

  • The AM Show news anchor Amanda Gillies said the gesture 'shows we are united'
  • Newsreaders began broadcasts with Islamic greetings

CHRISTCHURCH: News anchors in New Zealand joined women across the country in wearing headscarves as a show of solidarity on Friday for the victims of last week’s mosques shooting. 

The newsreaders covering the memorial events for the 50 people killed by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch, began broadcasts with Islamic greetings.

They included The AM Show news anchor Amanda Gillies, who said she agonized over whether to cover her hair with a peach-colored scarf.

"There's no way a week ago that I would have, because I would have thought it would have been deemed inappropriate, not right, that I was insulting the Muslim community," Gillies said.

"I'll be honest - I did angst over it today whether I should wear it, because I didn't want to be inappropriate or offend the Muslim community. But I know that they are so welcoming and accepting of it, and I know that a lot of women will wear it today because it just shows that we are united - the solidarity is there, the love and support is there."

Elsewhere, women across the country wore hijabs on an emotional day when the shocked  nation came together to remember those killed.

 A journalist wearing a headscarf as tribute to the victims of the mosque attacks uses her phone before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019. (Reuters)

Rafaela Stoakes, a 32-year-old mother of two, said wearing the Islamic head covering gave her an insight into what it means to stand out and feel part of the minority.

On Friday morning she covered all but a few locks of her dark chestnut-coloured hair in a loose red and white scarf, crossed neatly beneath her chin and tucked into a black hiking jacket.

She was one of many women embracing #HeadScarfforHarmony, to make a stand against the hate espoused by the Australian man who killed dozens of worshippers.

Headscarves were also worn as a mark of respect by policewomen and non-Muslim volunteers directing the crowds around the site in Christchurch holding communal prayers on Friday.

Many were wearing a headscarf for the first time.

"It is amazing how different I felt for the short time I was out this morning," Stoakes told AFP.

"There were a lot of confused looks and some slightly aggressive ones," she said.

"I did feel a sense of pride to honour my Muslim friends, but I also felt very vulnerable and alone as I was the only person wearing one."

"It must take a lot of courage to do this on a daily basis."

The gesture caught on nationwide -- in offices, schools and on the streets -- as well as at the ceremonies held in Christchurch to mark one week since the killings at the hands of a self-avowed white supremacist.

Women flooded Twitter, Facebook and other social media -- which played a key role in allowing the gunman to spread his message -- with their images.

Kate Mills Workman, a 19-year-old student from Wellington, posted a selfie on Twitter wearing a green headscarf.

"If I could I would be attending the mosque and standing outside to show my support for my Muslim whanau but I've got lectures and I can't really skip them," she told AFP, using a Maori language term for extended family.

"Obviously this is all spurred on by the terrible tragedy in Christchurch, but it's also a way of showing that any form of harassment or bigotry based on a symbol of religion is never okay," she added.

"As New Zealanders, we have to make a really strong stand."

Although the headscarf has been the subject of contentious debate over gender rights in the Islamic world, for Stoakes the day has been a lesson in how pious Muslim women often do not have the option to melt away into the background when they feel vulnerable.

"We can nod and pretend to agree with people who we are afraid of, or plead ignorance if we feel in danger of confrontation," she said.

"But a Muslim is just right out there. Like a bullseye. Their hijabs and clothing speak before they do."