Every lunchtime at any fast food joint in the city, queues of hungry young patrons, often, snake towards the counters. Majority of those standing in line are under 30, most are in western rather than Indian dress, and almost all in their choice of conversation and style are identifiably part of the much-fabled booming Indian middle class.
Drawn by a growing and increasingly wealthy population of young people in India, fast food joints like McDonald’s aim to increase the number of outlets in the country from about 200 to 1,000 in the next five years. Yum! Restaurants, which own the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands, will open 100 new outlets this year in India and also aim to have 1,000 restaurants by 2015. Western fast food in India has never been more popular, with its image as something fresh, young and sophisticated burnished by huge marketing budgets.India has a strong culture of eating at street-side stalls and snacking on greasy deep-fried dishes, such as samosas or pakoras. Add all this together and it is not hard to see why the country of 1.2 billion people is seen as an Eldorado by the fast food industry. But, the rising consumption of processed food that is high in fat and sugar is causing worries that India is importing obesity, creating a ticking public health bomb that the country can ill-afford.
A November 2010 study by the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation of India found that one in three children in private schools in New Delhi were obese, compared with one in ten in government schools. "Obesity is emerging in India which has serious implications for metabolic health in the future," researcher Seema Gulati said. "A major 2010 study called ‘The Rise of Asia’s Middle Class’ by the Asian Development Bank warned that ‘in the next 20-30 years Asia will be faced with an increasing number of chronic diseases on a scale previously unseen.’ These include cancer, heart diseases and diabetes, which are linked to high-fat, high-sugar diets coupled with sedentary lifestyles involving little physical activity.