Monumental portions a menace

Americans have been branded the main culprits behind the sky high demand for more food worldwide.

by: Jasmin Melvin: Reuters | 30 Jul 2008

With soaring food prices sparking protests in many countries and more than 800 million people going hungry every day, US food portions are under scrutiny.

A lightening of the American plate could ease pressure on worldwide demand, but not everyone is hopeful change will be coming any time soon.

With a bombardment of food ads, many aimed at children, Americans are tempted with an array of food choices.

One fast-food chain calls its massive burger a "monument to decadence" while the Wendy's chain calls its "Baconator" a "mountain of mouth-watering taste."

Portion sizes in the United States not only exceed those in less-developed countries, but also in the developed world.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, Americans have the highest per capita daily consumption in the world, eating 3,770 calories a day, more than a Canadian at 3,590 calories or an Indian at 2,440.

"We've looked at large portion sizes almost entirely in terms of whether it's healthy for us, and now we have to consider is that sort of a demand going to be sustainable," said Paul Roberts, author of "The End of Food."

Fewer groceries
High food prices coupled with a slowing economy have led 71 percent of Americans to eat out less and 48 percent are buying fewer groceries, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

Meanwhile, restaurants are also being hit hard by the rise in food prices.

But restaurants are not making big reductions in portions, making only small moves like not automatically refilling bread baskets or introducing calorie counter options.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest said large portion sizes are unlikely to fade away despite increasing food costs since the actual farm value of food is low for restaurants compared to other costs, such as labour, advertising and transportation.

President George W. Bush caused a stir earlier this year when he blamed India's growing wealth and demands for better food for raising food prices.

But many pointed the finger back at Americans' tummies.

Are Americans eating the world dry?

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