Fast food is food which is prepared and served at a fast-food restaurant or shop at low cost. Fast food is often processed and prepared in an industrial fashion (i.e., with standard ingredients and methodical cooking and production method). It is served usually in bags or cartoons in a manner in order to save costs. Fast food outlets often provide take-away food in addition to a dine-in service. Drive-through, could be found in some fast food restaurant, allow food to be ordered and delivered without leaving the car to speed up the service. Fast food is usually finger food that can be eaten quickly and without cutlery needed (using bare hand). Fast food often offers fish and chip, sandwiches, hamburger, french fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, and ice cream. Moreover, many fast food restaurants offer some other easily consumed choices like, mashed potato, or salads. Chinese cuisine, although the food could be served as take-away, is not always a fast food.
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Because of its convenience, fast food is successfully popular in most modern society; however, it is often criticized for having alleged shortcoming, for example: It has poor nutritive value, It contributes to obesity, It uses exploitative advertising and marketing. The unhealtiness of fast food, pointing one, comes from cooking method. Fast food tends to be deep-fried which resulting high amount of fats and calories. To illustrate this complaints, the documentary film Super Size Me, had the director eat nothing but McDonald's without exercise within 30days. Due to the combination of food and lack of exercise, his health was impacted. In order to overcome those health issues, some of the largest fast food chains are beginning to incorporate healthier alternatives, adding salads and fruits to their menus. However, some people are unbelieving about this, seeing it as tokenistic and commercial measure, rather than appropriate reaction about people's health.
The rapid growth of the fast food industry during the last decade has added another dimension to the change in food consumption pattern of Malaysians. The Westernisation of global eating habits, make possible through food imports, fast food and rising consumption of sugars and animals fats, is often blamed for the rising epidemic of obesity and associated chronic disease (Gopalan C. 1992). The fast food industry in Malaysia had a sizzling growth throughout most of the 1990s. The total sales were RM1 billion (US$ 263million) in 1997 increasing to RM 1,3 billion (US$ 340 million) in 2000(The Edge, 2001). Some of the major fast food companies in Malaysia and their estimated sales for the year 2000 are shown in table 1.
Table 1 Fast food companies in Malaysia - a selected list
Brand (origin) Year established Number of outlets Market share(%) Sales
KFC (USA) 1973 294 45 152.3
McDonald's (USA) 1982 141 30 92.0
Pizza Hut (USA) 1984 85 8 31.6
A & W (USA) 1961 44 4 19.1
Marrybrown (local) 1981 88 4 NA
Sugar Bun (local) 1981 45 * 9.5
Kenny Roger (USA) 1994 25 * 9.5
*all others combined = 9%
â€ US$ 1.00 = RM 3.80
NA - not available.
Source : The EDGE. (2001) Still sizzling? Survey & Guide, pp. 59-63
Psychologically, adults develop their independence, and try and fit into their social circle. Peer and working pressure may cause them to choose soft drinks instead of milk, skipping meals because of their duties. Adults want to develop independence and make choices for themselves (they choose what and where to eat and drink). Truswell AS (ABC of Nutrition, 1999) has suggested the following eating behaviour as common in adults, such as, skipping meals ("being on a diet"), eating snack, consuming high amount of fast food, consuming convenience food, drinking high amount of alcohol and soft drinks.
Trends in Food Consumption
Income and population, coupled with changes in lifestyle to one of urbanisation, have increased the demand for food and convinced changes in food habits, food purchasing, and consumption patterns (Noor MI, 2002). Food balance sheet data are useful to indicate trends of food intake pattern rather than consumption per se in the absence of nation-wide food consumption surveys. The intake pattern of calories increased from 2430 kcal person-1 day -1 in 1961 to 2990 kcal person-1 day-1 in 1997, protein from 49g person-1 day-1 to 61g person-1 day-1, and fat from 49g person-1 day-1 to 87g person-1 day-1 (Food and Agriculture Organization, (1961-1997)). The food balance sheet also revealed that, from 1961 to 1997, the amount of calories obtained from cereals decreased from 61% to 41%, meanwhile, calories from meat, eggs and fish increased from 6.2% to 14,3% sweeteners from 9.5% to 18%, and oils and fats from 11.% to 14.8% (Table2)
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Table2 Changes in sources of calories in Malaysia, 1961-1997
1961-63 1970-72 1979-81 1988-90 1997
Cereals 61 57 48.6 40.0 41.0
Starchy roots 1.9 1.9 1.9 2.9 1.9
Vegetables & fruits 4.2 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8
Pulses 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Meat, fish, eggs 6.2 6.7 9.5 12.4 14.3
Milk, excluding butter 2.9 2.9 3.8 3.8 3.8
Sweeteners 9.5 12.4 12.4 13.2 18.0
Oils & fats 11.4 12.4 17.1 21.0 14.8
Miscellaneous 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.4
Source : Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), (1961-1997).
The Ministry of Agriculture reported that per capita consumption of major food commodities between the years 1985 and 2000 as shown in table 3. The trend learnt, where there is a shift towards an affluent diet that is high in energy-dense foods and rich in fats at the expense of complex carbohydrate foods, is consistent with the increased national wealth. The report also revealed a doubled increase in imported food from US$ 909 million in 1985 to US$ 2 billion in 1995.
Food intake studies
In the absence of nation-wide food consumption surveys, this report is able to highlight some selected studies which are conducted in the last several decades. A household food consumption survey in poverty villages reported a mean energy intake of 1874 kcal, of which 12% if the total energy was obtained from protein, 18% from fats and 70% from carbohydrates (Chong YH, Tee ES, Ng TKW, et al. 1984). A study by Chee SS, Ismail MN, Ng KK, et al.(1997). In poor villages, using 3-day food record, reported a similar mean energy intake of 1871 kcal with a difference in the constituents, 13% of the total energy from protein, 20% from fats and 67% from carbohydrates. Their study also expressed a significant difference in mean energy intakes of urban (1718 kcal) and rural woman (1711 kcal) were similar, fat contributed 30% of the total calories in the urban subjects compared with 29% in the rural counterparts. An examination of the fat composition of the Malaysian urban population's diet by chemical analysis, using a 7-day rotation menu, revealed that the diet provided 2300 kcal obtained from 66g of total fat ( 51g of vegetable fats and 15g of animal fats), 36g of protein and 360g of carbohydrates (Tony NKW, 1995)
Table 3 Per capita consumption (kg year-1) of major food commodities, 1985-2000
Item 1985 1990 1995 2000
Rice 102.2 89.8 86.9 85.7
Vegetables 42.4 45.4 48.5 52.0
Fruits 39.7 44.3 49.9 53.5
Beef 2.4 3.2 4.3 5.3
Mutton 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.6
Poultry 14.6 19.0 30.0 35.3
Pork 10.1 12.0 13.2 8.1
Eggs 11.4 15.7 16.4 16.8
Milk* 37.2 37.7 51.5 53.0
Foodfish 33.4 34.8 39.1 49.0
Food imports (US$ million) 909 1205 2017 NA
*Milk per capita consumption in litres per year.
NA - not available.
Source : Ministry of Agriculture. (1999)