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Snack foods a threat to nation's youth

44 Comments

Addictive products are everywhere. In addition to hard drugs like amphetamines and narcotics, many people become hooked on such "soft drugs" as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. And there are also "mild drugs," such as chocolate, which contains theobromine, a substance that causes the blood vessels to dilate.

Then there are snack foods, which freelance journalist Harumi Ichikawa, writing in Shukan Kinyobi (Sept 24), points out that while not physically addictive, are habitually consumed by growing numbers of young Japanese.

Snack foods first began making their appearance in Japan during the period of high economic growth in the 1960s. Koikeya Co succeeded in mass-production of potato chips in 1962; Calbee marketed its "Kappa-ebisen" crackers in 1964; and Meiji Seika launched "Curl" in 1968.

"Convenience stores have become 'mild drug stores,' whose main business is dispensing soft drinks and snack foods," says Hideo Makuuchi, author of "The People Who Eat Potatoes: The truth behind food products that have become 'soft drugs,'" from WAVE Shuppan. Makuuchi wrote the book to warn people of the dangers of addiction to potato chips and other snack foods.

The average convenience store carries about 40 varieties of snacks, in a variety of package sizes.

According to a website jointly operated by two associations of wholesalers and manufacturers, a total of 222,430 tons of snack foods were produced in Japan in 2009, roughly equivalent to 3.7 billion 60-gram packages with a retail value of approximately 283 billion yen.

In households with spouses in their 30s and 40s -- those most likely to have children of school age -- annual outlays for snack foods averaged around 6,600 yen a year. At a unit price of 100 yen, this would convert to over one package per week.

Data indicate that consumption of snacks declines sharply in households headed by people aged 50 and above (who favor traditional snacks such as "sembei" rice crackers), it is clear that snack foods are being consumed mainly by children, more of whom are likely to develop a dependency.

Dietary habits in the postwar era have been subject to successive waves of change, starting with imports of foreign wheat, the appearance of instant ramen, advent of U.S.-style fast food and so on, but in Makuuchi's view, snack foods are the most insidious.

"Snacks can be obtained cheaply and easily, and since the overall ratio of potatoes is low, one can eat as much as one wants," says Makuuchi. "In the case of fast foods, at least people have to go out to the store to buy it, and despite the empty calories, they contain bread and meat, so they're edible. But people do not give beer or cigarettes or coffee to kids. By the same token feeding snacks to children from age one is like giving them drugs -- adults shouldn't let them have it."

The popularity of snack foods has also had an impact on the flavorings used in traditional rice-based snacks like "sembei," many makers of which now apply more oil, salt, sugar and seasoning. Convenience stores offer "new-style" onigiri (rice balls wrapped in seaweed) stuffed with sausages or pizza sauce and cheese instead of pickled plums or bonito flakes.

"Eventually the day will come when people stop eating plain white rice for breakfast and instead spread mayonnaise and ketchup over their rice," Makuuchi predicts.

Periodic surveys of primary and middle school students of children between ages 10 to 14 conducted over the past three decades by the Education Ministry show a sharp rise in obesity from around 1990.

Tomoo Okada, a specialist in juvenile obesity at a hospital in Tokyo's Itabashi Ward, notes that many of his young patients are in the habit of snacking in front of the TV in the evenings. In addition to early warning symptoms of diabetes, many suffer from fatty liver, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and other circulatory problems.

"Overweight children, due to family circumstances, tend to eat out or purchase their suppers outside and eat alone," says Okada. "There's a strong tendency toward such poor eating habits. Children who arise earlier, eat three proper meals a day and stay active at school won't become obese."

"We should eat foods that generate flavor through the process of chewing," advises Sadao Mayumi, a pediatrician who regularly lectures on nutrition. "Anything that tastes good as soon as you put it in your mouth is going to be full of additives."

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

44 Comments
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Oh my god!! If these people could only see the crappy junk food that fat ass American and Mexican kids eat! These rice crackers sound way more healthy than going to Taco Bell or Burger King everyday for the rest of your life.

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True 100% so? govt/families will ban such food products?!

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As for the topic itself that "Snack foods a threat to nation's youth" ?

Rubbish ! I'd say instant ramen, chemical laced bentos, and poor exercise habits are responsible for the nations bloated youth.

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"soft drugs," as... caffeine"

"mild drugs," such as chocolate"

OK, I admit to being a drug addict, even if it is a "soft" or "mild" drug, lol.

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One big problem here in Japan is the number of preservatives added to foods. I used to get terrible eczema when I lived here in the past. I couldn't figure out the problem and the doctors just wanted me to take some steroids for it. But I took various items out of my diet and the eczema basically disappeared. Foods that are refrigerated aren't so bad...it is those buns and rolls with egg salad and sausages, etc that are sold in cellophane packages at convenience stores that are the worst. They sit on the shelf for days at a time with no refrigeration. You'd never see that in the states.

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the munchies

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I would avoid frozen food

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and snack foods and mcdonalds

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Ketchup and white rice is good !!! Plain white rice is nasty !!!!

Fast Food once a week isn't bad. But everyday is dangerous.

I would love to shop at an organic store but the prices is to much.

And chemicals & pesticides are found in vegetables and fruits. Everything you eat is dangerous. Don't forget that japan is exporting food from C-H-I-N-A and other scary third world countries with no laws or regulations on what pesticides is ok and not ok to use.

The world is killing US softly with all the industrial chemicals & preservatives for food. Its like drinking bleach slowly we poison ourselves everyday. Even bottled water is not 100% CLEAN

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and umeboshi!

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Sooooo, the youth of japan needs to learn to eat fast food in moderation. Once a week is good. Everyday is bad. Moral to the story

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This article should be read in the same manner as a 1950's school reel movie to be truly enjoyed :)

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This article should be read in the same manner as a 1950's school reel movie to be truly enjoyed :)

LOL! How do you know the writer him or herself wasn't a product of 1950's educational films?

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Don't forget that japan is exporting food from C-H-I-N-A and other scary third world countries I think Whisky was trying to say Japan is IMPORTING food from CHINA and not exporting, right??

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“Anything that tastes good as soon as you put it in your mouth is going to be full of additives.”

So that's why I effing hate natto!! Give the additives! Pringles - from the part of the world I'm from they're health food!

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A Hershey's chocolate bar with almonds may be high in calories and fat, but it's really delicious and it's really good for your mental health.

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Its easy everyone:

low caffeine no sugary foods no saturated fats low salt >120mg per 100g (www.saltmatters.org) low alcohol

Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, and fish.Exercise at for at least 30 minutes everyday.Swimming and yoga is best. Read lots of books and associate with nice friendly people. Live happy and healthy till 100.

In Japan what amazes me is the very high levels of salt added to all the foods. I have a statistics book for Japan that states hyper tension is a leading killer in Japan. This is largely caused by high salt foods. Basically, if you want to live healthily in Japan you have to cook your own food at home.

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The following quote is worth remembering:

“We should eat foods that generate flavor through the process of chewing,” advises Sadao Mayumi, a pediatrician who regularly lectures on nutrition. “Anything that tastes good as soon as you put it in your mouth is going to be full of additives.”

That's a brilliant analysis and the main thing I'll take away from this useful article.

My Japanese wife and I are in complete opposition with her saying, "Oh, just a little doesn't hurt." The thing is, people who follow this "80-20 rule" with 20 being the "just a little" is actually more of a 60-40 or even 50-50 ratio. I'm constantly pointing out that apples have roughly 100 calories, but those doggone chocolate-covered peanuts have about 450. The wife says the kids have good, slim bodies, but she is so dumb that she doesn't realize that things are going to change as they get older due to this dependency on junk.

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We should eat foods that generate flavor through the process of chewing,” advises Sadao Mayumi, a pediatrician who regularly lectures on nutrition. “Anything that tastes good as soon as you put it in your mouth is going to be full of additives

Indubitably... ;^)

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@space monkey: Fruit, vegetables....fine. But fish isn't the great food it used to be. Lots of toxins in it since the waters they live in have gotten so polluted. And so much of it here is basically "brined" in salt as Japanese people seem to think that is the best way to season it. What a shame...

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So, how will this effect Japan's life expectancy in the years to come?

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These are all symptoms, not causes. Study after study have shown that worsening economic conditions, more work hour requirements from mom and dad naturally lead to less nutritional eating by the kids.

businesses want to make money,so they sell what people buy. When you get more kids that are out and choosing their own meals/snacks, they're going to choose junk.

Not much you can do. A few lectures by old school nutritionists won't do anything to stem the billion dollar snack industry, and clueless kids that want their candy.

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I'd love to eat fresh fruit all the time, but in Japan the prices are insane! Fresh fruit is more like a treat for me when I can afford it.

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6,600 yen on snack for a year for a whole family? That amount seems really small. What exactly is this guy defining as a snack anyway? I don't think one bag of chips or bottle of coke per week is gonna do much damage. It's up to parents to provide healthy snacks for the kids at home and obviously you shouldn't be giving children money and sending them off to the conbini to get something to eat.

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Hideo Makuuchi, author of “The People Who Eat Potatoes: The truth behind food products that have become ‘soft drugs’.

Wow, people actually eat potatoes? And people are getting high on potatoes because someone made fried chips? Shhhhh! Don’t tell the cops!

Coming soon; "The People Who Drink Rice": The truth behind food products that have become hard alcohol.

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I think that in 10 years, the dumb class of Japan will noticed from far in the crowds. Now parents still look OK, children cheeky, teens seem to have puppy fat... but we see more extremely chubby people every year.

What I find scary is Misdo. Whenever I walk near one, I see all the brain dead shufus of the area, they gather there. Those women are there smoking, drinking coffee, the brats in baby cars or running around. When the kids start being noisy, they stuff them donuts in the mouth. One day, I saw a guy with his baby (about 3 month old). He was putting bits of donuts in her mouth.

@Gaijininfo The stay-at-home mums raise chubbier kids. The kids are alone at home because Mum is playing pachinko. It's the level of education, not the hours the parents spend with kids. Many working parents are serious about the whole family's diet and their activities. That's not at school, in clubs and juku that the kids drink soda and eat sweets. And during the week-ends, some families have other activities than visiting fast-food malls. Going to hike, to the beach, with home-made onigiri costs less actually. In certain families, they don't care at all, food is chosen because it looks good on the ads and the kids are glad to have it. The same let the kids miss school, watch TV and play games at home as much as they like.

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How is it that a cheese danish pastry has a shelf life of 35 days?

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@lunchmeat.....exactly. But then again, "lunch meat" has an unusually long shelf life, too (lol).

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Snack food is okay as long as you don't eat too much. Just a little bit of chocolate, potato chips and etc.. totally fine. Just need to learn where to stop.

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and as long as you/kids eat healthy mean BEFORE eating snack food, I don't see why not :)

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Talk about inventing a story... Japanese (on average) are not overweight or anywhere near to being considered an obese nation.

To prove it to yourself, visit America. Then you will feel very thin. Just look at how much junk food and beverages they consume. Also pay attention to the ridiculous sizes of their serving portions.

Sure eating snacks is not good all the time, but I believe for the vast majority of the population, a snack or two a week is not a health problem at all.

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But then again, "lunch meat" has an unusually long shelf life, too (lol).

Do tell.

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“Eventually the day will come when people stop eating plain white rice for breakfast and instead spread mayonnaise and ketchup over their rice,” Makuuchi predicts.

Mmmm what a good idea

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“We should eat foods that generate flavor through the process of chewing,” does he mean Clorets gum with the liquid center? This dude don't make no sense.

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TOKYO — Addictive products are everywhere. In addition to hard drugs like amphetamines and narcotics

I didn't know amphetamines and narcotics were EVERYWHERE in Japan.

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Coming soon; "The People Who Drink Rice": The truth behind food products that have become hard alcohol.

hahah, You made the tea I was drinking go up my nose, I have jasmin sinuses now.

Many people have said this on here MANY times, myself included: It's too expensive to eat healthy here! As I said in the McD's article a few weeks ago: for the price of 1 apple, you can buy 3 cheeseburgers.

That, is just stupid. In England I could get a bag of 12 apples for the same price or less.

I saw a pack of 2 parsnips the other day for Y700! 2 bloody parsnips!!

Were they from Michael Jacksons garden or something? No, they were from Niigata.

Subsidise farmers and cut the price of fruit and veg to 1/4 of what it is now and people will eat less garbage and more food that is good for them. If you have 2 kids and living on minimum wage, you can't afford Y700 or Y800 for 2 apples but you can afford the Y250 or whatever for 2 burgers.

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It's going to be VERY very interesting to see Japan's population in 10-20 years... The number of "skinny-fat" people are increasing so strongly, as kids move and exercise less, while snacking on crepe, fried chicken, sweets etc. without knowing the consequences or anything about a balanced diet... and since they have really small muscles, it takes a while before we notice that they actually have a much too high fat percentage (thus the term "skinny-fat"). The amazingly high living age in Japan will plumet...

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Isn't 6,600 yen a year a tiny amount??? Surely there isn't a whole lot being eaten if that figure is correct... or have I missed something?

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@MrDog: That's because they DON'T eat parsnips here. When you try to buy a vegetable that is rarely eaten in ANY country, you usually pay through the nose. Try to buy, let's say, "gobo" (burdock root) in the UK and you would probably pay an unreasonable amount, too!

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@kawachi

I know they don't eat them here, I was just using it as an example because I saw it the other day and thought it was just silly. Oh, and you can get burdock in the UK, it's not expensive either. Whatever, it still doesn't change the fact that fruit and vegetables are hideously overpriced here.

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Tax junk food the same way tabacco is taxed! Patriotism before Profits!

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The author's comparison of snack foods to drugs is silly and inappropriate. If that kind of discussion was in the comments, the moderator wouldn't have it. If you want to address a serious issue, address it seriously. Don't dress it up.

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Airion, it's no joke at all. A number of studies have demonstrated the possible addictive effect of junk food on animals and on humans. It seems I cannot post a link so browse "studies addictive junk food". One found that a person, usually having a sane diet, and for the study was given very fat food (like your fast fry menu) at each meal started to have modified hormonal balance in a few days only. And the result of the modification was craving for more of that type of food.

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I cut out junk food from my diet about 4 weeks ago. I'd love an ice cream, pie or donuts. But it's been okay not eating snack food. Cooooooookies....

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