“The tax is a steep one and should be enough to drive people like me away from junk food. It’s time to make a switch to health food, at least partially,” she said
Experts pointed out that few consuming fast-food engaged in physical activities that could burn out the additional calorie intake. “Most fast-food consumers have a busy schedule and they prefer it because fast-food is available quickly and easily. They rarely bother to check the calorie count. This additional calorie gets deposited and invariably leads to health hazards,” said Amitabha Saha, consultant at Ruby General Hospital. Diabetes and abdominal fat were the two most common fall-outs of fast-food addiction in Kolkata, pointed out Basu. “Fat in the abdominal region is the principal trigger for cardio-vascular diseases. It invariably travels to the cardiac arteries and clogs them,” Basu said.
Not just excess calories, fast food also led to unplanned consumption of protein, pointed out Subir Ganguly, oncologist. “Fast-food is often laden with deep-fried meat and eggs. The trans-fat count rises as the same food is fried again and again. That apart, the preservatives used are also harmful and often carcinogenic. In fact, excess consumption of salt and sugar with fast food is risky as well. A pizza or a burger is often washed down with aerated drinks, which are again a rich source of additional calories,” said Ganguly .
A tax on fast food was not enough to discourage consumption, he felt. “A tax is fine but the government should suggest alternatives through a guideline on healthy food. It should be well publicized through an organized campaign,” Ganguly suggested. Basu agreed. “Most fast-food consumers belong to the affluent class who can afford to pay more. So, we need to wean them away which is not easy,” he said.
Fast-food chains were tight-lipped about the tax or its possible impact. “We don’t have the tax in Kolkata yet, so it would be hypothetical to comment,” said a KFC official in Kolkata.