Red meat should carry graphic health warnings, similar to those found on cigarette and tobacco packaging, according to information from psychologist Emma Kenny. Hired to advise Food Standards Scotland on their obesity campaign, Kenny suggests that images of disease and tooth decay should be on red meat products.

Speaking to the Herald, Kenny said that health warnings such as this would make people rethink the food that they’re buying, and carefully consider their purchases. Kenny said: “The western world would be a far healthier and happier place if the food industry were regulated in a truthful manner.

“If you went to buy red meat and you were confronted with pictures of bowel cancer, or were confronted with pictures of tooth decay when you picked up those sweets for your kids, the chances are that you would think twice about buying them.”

Food Standards Scotland’s new obesity campaign which is against upsizing, and warns consumers of the industry tricks which consequently sees increased calorie intake. Kenny identified tactics that the retail and food industry use to make the public “mistake overeating for value for money”.

The Campaign

Obesity is the leading cause of numerous health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, and is linked to certain types of cancer. Red meat has been associated with some cancers, such as bowel cancer. Talking about previous strategies to intervene for the benefit of public health, Kenny used the example of the images on cigarette and tobacco packets which encouraged a shift in consumer behaviour and warned against the normalisation of obesity.

“There is a limiting belief in society that is held by too many, this involves one where the expectation is that ‘nothing will change.’ Actually, what we have seen from the smoking ban in an absolute transformation on peoples’ attitude toward smoking in general.

“Whilst we cannot ban food, I think we should at least regulate the type and quantities of food that can be sold to us, and any measure that attempts to do this is a welcome one,” said Kenny.

Talking about upsizing, Kenny said: “The truth is that upsizing is based on a great deal of research regarding consumer behaviour. The basis involves making the customer feel they are being advised of a better offer, and promotes a fear of missing out, which in turn leads to more impulsive behaviour.

“This results in a meal choice that is bigger and more calorific than they require. Now faced with a challenge of not getting their money’s worth, they overeat to rationalise their choice.

“What is hugely damaging about this cycle is that many shops and restaurants apply this type of psychology and that leads to people feeling that unless they have been offered very large portions of food, they haven’t been given the service they expect.”

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