Should Fast Food Come With a Warning Label?

By May Wilkerson 04/08/15

Australian food advocate Aaron Schultz wants customers to make educated choices.

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Given the growing obesity crisis, should fast-food packaging contain graphic warnings like cigarette packaging?

This is the measure being proposed by Australian healthy food advocate, Aaron Schultz, who is campaigning to change the way unhealthy food is marketed, especially to children.

Schultz, who founded the Game Changer movement to eliminate fast-food ads in sports, calls himself a “normal dad that’s got concerns about unhealthy products being pushed to my children.” He is pushing for food retailers to give more detailed information about what goes into their products, like ingredients and food sources, and its possible effects on the health of consumers.

“We’re heading down the wrong path at a rapid rate. Certainly food labeling 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 labeling.”

One of his goals is to include warning labels on fast-food containers, graphically illustrating potential consequences for consumers, like heart disease and obesity. The labels would mirror the graphic images commonly featured on cigarette packaging in countries like the U.S., Australia, and Canada.

But his packaging proposal has been met with opposition by some who argue the food itself is not the root of the problem. “I don’t think we can say one Big Mac will make big children,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. “The answer is really in portion sizes and moderation.”

Gans supports the idea of more transparency in terms of ingredients and food sources, but is against the idea of warning labels. She doesn’t believe the tactic would change people’s eating habits, arguing that most people who buy fast food already know they’re making an unhealthy 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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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.