Hungry Lion's stunt ignores SA health issues

Heritge Day promotion
Heritge Day promotion
Hungry Lion

In celebration of National Heritage Day on the 24th of September, fast food chain, Hungry Lion is encouraging Capetonians to break a Guinness World record by eating fried chicken.

On the 9th of September, Hungry Lion issued a press release stating that they intend to give away 1.1 tonnes of fried chicken on Heritage Day to 11 000 Mitchells Plain residents. Each person will receive a can of Coca Cola with their fried chicken.

The fast food chain also encourages South Africans nationwide to celebrate Heritage Day by buying the Hungry Lion Heritage Day Feast meal to share with the whole family.

Tashalene Reid, Brand Marketing Manager at Hungry Lion, stated that the purpose of the campaign is to uphold the company’s brand promise of “giving Mzanzi more”.

While for one day of the year this is not a problem, encouraging regular consumption of fast food such as this is likely to have severe health consequences for an already unhealthy population (see below).

Foods high in fat and salt but low in other, more essential nutrients, are exactly not what the Rainbow Nation needs to be eating right now. 

Hungry Lion's "Think Big, Get More' marketing message additionally is promoting a culture of overeating and supersizing portions. 

Take a look at the daily and weekly promotions - words such as King sized, Big Bite, Think Big and Get More are used along with each meal.  

ReadDietDoc's analysis of the Hungry Lion meal and its nutritional value

One can’t help but wonder what exactly Hungry Lion are planning to give Mzanzi more of.

More health problems is an answer that springs to mind.

Currently South Africans are facing a mounting health epidemic, partially fuelled by poor knowledge of proper diet and nutrition.

Sky high blood pressure

According to a press release issued by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, it is estimated that one in three South African adults has high blood pressure (hypertension). 

A 2014 Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE), conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that South Africa has the highest blood pressure reported among people aged 50 and over for any country in the world, at any time in history.

Each day an average of 240 South Africans suffer strokes, while another 130 suffer a heart attack.

Read: The risk of heart disease among SA's poor is reaching epidemic proportions

We're fatter than ever

Research by the University of Witwatersrand has found that South Africans have become more obese over the past 30 years, and that the country is presently the most obese country in sub-Saharan Africa. Over half of South Africa's adults are overweight or obese – 42 percent of women and 13 percent of men.

Too much salt

Ironically, September is not only the month of Heritage Day, it is also National Heart Awareness month when South Africans are encouraged to have their blood pressure tested and reduce the amount of salt in their diet in an attempt to reduce the country’s high rate of heart disease and stroke.

The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) recommends that adults consume a maximum of 1500 to 2300 mg of sodium per day – that's no more than 1 teaspoon.

According to Health24's resident dietician, DietDoc, fried chicken has a relatively high sodium content. 100g of fried chicken amounts to at least 10% of the recommended daily sodium intake for adults.

Read: South Africans are eating too much salt

In an email Health24 received from Hungry Lion's PR agency, each person will receive a piece of chicken, approximately 150g in size. This means that each piece of fried chicken eaten will account for 15% of a person's daily recommended sodium levels. Despite multiple requests, Hungry Lion failed to provide Health24 with the nutritional information of the meal that will be served.

Read: DietDoc's analysis of the Hungry Lion meal and its nutritional value

Too much sugar

A can of Coke contributes 18% of the daily energy allowance for adults. PLOS Medicine, the leading open-access medical journal reports that South Africans are increasing their consumption of soft drinks year on year.

Compared with a worldwide average of 89 Coca-Cola products per year, in 2010 South Africans consumed 254 Coca-Cola products per person per year, a considerable increase from around 130 in 1992 and 175 in 1997. 

Carbonated drinks are now the third most commonly consumed food/drink item among very young urban South African children (aged 12–24 months) – less than maize meal and brewed tea, but more than milk.

Plos also reports that in 2010, up to half of young South Africans were consuming fast foods, cakes and biscuits, cold drinks, and sweets at least four days a week.

The meal served by Hungry Lion on Heritage Day will also be unbalanced, as it doesn't include any salad, fruit or vegetables.

ReadToday's parents are blind to kids' obesity

Too much fat

Researchers at the Department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health in Spain published a study in 2007 that found that eating fried foods on a regular basis is directly linked to obesity.

They also found that body mass index, waist circumference and overall weight were higher in men and women who derived the majority of their caloric intake from fried foods.

ReadWhere you body fat sits shows your high blood pressure risk

DietDoc estimates that one 100g piece of crumbed and deep-fried chicken breast provides 1210 kilojoules (kJ). With the 167 kJ from the Coke, the meal will provide a total energy content of about 1540 kJ, or 24,4% of the suggested daily energy intake for an adult woman. With around 17g of fat per portion, half of the energy is from fat. 

This begs the question: is Heritage Day really about encouraging poor eating habits amongst an already unhealthy population, or should it rather be an opportunity to educate South Africans about the importance of learning to enjoy themselves while looking after their health?

Read: How to choose healthier fast food options

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa's PR and Communications officer, Samukelisiwe Mabaso, told Health24 that "breaking the world record for consuming 1.1 tonnes of fried chicken and 440 kg (or 88 000 teaspoons) of sugar shouldn’t be something we are proud of and shouldn’t  be how we commemorate Heritage Day."

Instead, the Foundation says that because many people will be braaing this Heritage Day, they are encouraging the public to make their braais  "a little bit healthier".

Rather than spending Heritage Day eating fast food in a mall, South Africans should get into the proper spirit and get their friends and family together for a healthy braai.

Consider replacing the usual red meat by braaing fish or chicken. Accompany your meal with a fresh salad and vegetables such as mielies and roasted butternut filled with spinach.

Read more:

Sensitivity to salt puts black South Africans at stroke risk
Many people unaware of high blood pressure
Too much sugar can cause heart disease
What to choose when eating at Nandos
Is fast food addictive?

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