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Junk Foods And Beverages – From Suppliments To Environment: Treats Or Threats

Junk Foods And Beverages – From Suppliments To Environment: Treats Or Threats

By Debalina Sanyal, Anurita Halder, Nilotpal Sarkar (UG, Department of Life Sciences, Presidency University)


This paper examines impact of environment by fast food production around the world. Fast food productions have created one of the largest industries worldwide. Fast food not only has negative effect on our health but also on our ecosystem. It contains chemical preservatives, chemical additives, flavoring agents, etc. Also some foods need huge amount of water (chips, soft drinks, beverages).According to Klaus Richardt, CEO and Founder of Waterless Co.,” An average sitdown, knife-and-fork restaurant uses 5,800 gallons of water a day.”. Some emits carbondioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases (beef production). Packaging causes massive amount of deforestation. The transport need much fuel consumption and cost. Not only this, it actually pollutes our air, soil, disbalances water ecosystem, damages human health and waste product harms the environment.


“Junk food drags you down.” -Miranda Lambert
“Junk foods” liked by almost many of us is a kind of slow poison. Delicious, cheap, easily available junk foods are poisoning us daily. Importantly, this junk foods are also creating pollution to our environment. Habits of eating junk food first started in America and now, it is spreading all over the world. Numbers of fast-food industries involved in the production of hamburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries, chips, cold drinks is continuously rising. So it will be our benefit if we look after this issue and try to reduce the consumptions of junk food as early as possible. If only health-risks cannot keep you away from junk foods, then environmental issues may wake you up. Getting back to proper nutritional diet can both keep us healthy and also can recover our Mother Nature. So what are you waiting for? Go study and educate yourselves about the disastrous effects of your favourite junk foods and start creating proper awareness programs against them. In U.S., the fast food industry is worth about 198.9 billion dollars which will cross 223 billion at the end of 2020.

Green House Gas Emission

Now a days Green house gases are the big threat to our climate and also to environment. Study shows that, only in Australia, diet of an average person produces 14.5kg of Co2 per day and in UK it is about 7.4 kg. About 25% of green house gases are emitted during this fast food production per year. Under the Kyoto protocol, there was a convention where many countries were agreed to reduced this GHGs emission. Carbon dioxide ,methane, nitrous oxide, hydro floro carbons (HFC), per fluro carbons (PFC), sulphur hexafluoride are the main GHGs which are mainly emitted from the fast food industries. Beef and dairy industry is mainly responsible for emitting green house gas than the other oil industries in world. Report shows about 70% of total allowable green house gas will be produced by 2050 which will increase about 2 degree C temperature in this century. Study by Environment Investigation Agency shows that in India, many eminent restaurants are the main source of HFC emission which is equivalent to nearly one million tons of carbon emission by 2020 and there are eight largest fast food chains in India that could generate such amount of HFC gas. During burger production, the amount of releasing particulate matter is twice that are emitted from truck and factories.

Packaging And Food Wastes

Packaging of fast foods include wrappers, straws, bags, plastic wares which harms the environment. This packaging materials are adding regularly to the waste. The negative impacts of food packaging on environment include reduction in soil quality, water pollution, deforestation, chemical pollution and solid waste pollution. Natural resources are consumed for packaging production. Forest resources such as wood, paper are consumed leading to various ecological problems such as soil erosion and cutting down of trees. Many fast food industries also leads in consumption of paper and waste production for packaging purposes. Unnecessary packaging wastes litter around and goes to landfills. Proper recycling of plastic packaging does not occur which leads more to pollution.

Reduction of Natural Resources

From the recent observation, it has been observed that 19% of total energy (comes from non-renewable natural resources) consumed in a country are used in producing foods and supplying of those. But the energy used to produce, process, preserve, package and transport the junk foods and beverages is much more than to produce staple foods. This requires a huge amount of fuel consumption and resulting in severe reduction of non-renewable natural resources. The current studies said that, some soft drinks and beverages companies has built their plants in Kanjikode and Plachimida ( Perumatty Panchayt, Kerala).The companies have required 3.8 litres of water to produce 1 litre of soft drinks. So, they extract nearly 6 lakhs litres of water from bore-wells situated near the factories and specially from Tamirabarani river in Tamil Nadu on daily basis. Now-a-days it has been come to know that the ground water level of those villages as well as the widespread areas of Perumatty Panchayathas diminished drastically and the quality of water has failed to reach the quality norms on the basis of salinity, alkalinity, high traces of Magnesium, Chlorine. Also the colloidal slurry(produced as sub product of beverages)which initially was sold to the villagers as fertilizers , contains toxic materials, carcinogens, Cadmium.

Problems In Agricultural Fields

Not only in case of reduction of natural resources but also the increasing junk foods & beverages plants are creating hazards in the ‘health’ of agricultural fields. The production needs huge amount of natural resources, raw materials and plots also. In 1990s some chips and beverages companies bought in Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra. Among those the most notable incident happened in Plachimida (rice bowl of Kerala).The companies bought around 38acres of plots in the midst of agricultural land historically belonged to Adivasis. As a result fruitfulness of that land as well as the surroundings faced disturbance in agricultural values.The junk foods companies also hit on the backbone of economic conditions of farmers. Some chips companies has sued a handful of farmers Rs.1.05 crores as the farmers had cultivated the FL2027 (well known as FC5 ) variety of potato which is mainly used in the production of chips.

Health Hazards

Harmful chemicals from packing of junk foods are absorbed into the ground which leads to bio-accumulation which is disastrous in this case. These harmful toxins are absorbed by the plants from the soil contaminations. Animals and humans after consuming plant or plant products directly or indirectly is getting harmed which is resulting in detoriating health condition of the humans and animals. Fast foods containing chemical additives, such as preservatives, flavoring agents and pesticides are affecting our health. Nitrates and nitrites (preservatives in meat products) is converted to nitrous acid which when consumed along with food may cause stomach cancer. Artificial food preservation methods which include nuclear radiation results into the radioactivity of the food. Artificial chemical preservatives can cause breathing problems, heart problems due to transfat and hydrogenated oil present in fried pies, pastries, pizza dough, crackers and cookies and BHA and BHT food additives may cause cancer. Preservatives present in processed junk foods contain fatty acids leading to obesity which is one of the major health problems in today’s world. Saccharine (artificial sweetener) present in baked foods, jam, soft drinks raises blood sugar levels. Monosodium glutamate (Ajinomoto), a salt present in processed meats, Chinese foods is used to enhance flavors. MSG has several side effects which include headache, nausea, weakness, heart palpitations, weight gain, cancer, asthma attacks, and hypertension. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, dental distresses also add to the list of the harmful effects of fast foods. Research results show that 51.7% students in particular areas of Charusat, Changa were properly educated about the negative impacts of junk foods, 43.3% students had average ideas, 5% of students did not have proper knowledge regarding the disastrous effect of junk foods. This results show that majority of the students have proper education regarding the ill effects of junk foods.

Different types of junk foods

Accumulated litters from junk foods


Junk foods can shift us to junk store. Apparently those foods that are watering our mouths, giving us different tastes, pleasuring our tongues is ultimately ending up with junks inside our stomach as well as in our dearest Earth. By diminishing natural resources and breaking down the economic backbone of farmers, the companies of junk foods and beverages are ending up with our stomach as trash bins. The production of those junk foods and beverages firstly settle their paws and engulf huge plots enriched with high amount of natural resources and raw materials, degrading those resources limitlessly for their business profit hike and then mess our health as well as our environment. We all are now hexed with those junk foods and beverages in our fast lives. Only reduction of excessive consumption of junk foods and unhealthy beverages and spreading awareness will reduce the dangerous problem. There should be proper usage of natural resources and raw materials. But above all, we should eat our meal under our zeal. This is the high and edge-line time to give treatment properly on the wounds of Earth and environment and to make her more beautiful.


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