What would you say if I told you that companies that offer health and life insurance are big investors in fast food companies? According to a study reported in the American Journal of Public Health, these companies owned $1.9 billion worth of stock, as of June 11, 2009. The investments were in the five largest fast-food corporations — Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), and Wendy’s/Arby’s.
How can an industry that claims to be concerned about people’s health and well-being also choose to invest in products that are known to contribute to the rising epidemic of obesity and diseases associated with them (diabetes, heart disease, cancer). Sure, fast food can be consumed in a responsible manner. People now have healthier options at fast food restaurants and are also given the nutrition information for the menu items (on-line and in-store). But, how many people do you know go to McDonald’s to order the fruit and yogurt parfait or McGrilled chicken salad?
What the insurance companies are doing is wrong. They are profiting on both ends. Fast-food corporations continue to make money and so do their investors. More people eat fast-food because it is quick, tasty, and cheap. Unfortunately, most of those people are overweight or obese and suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and asthma. More illnesses, more doctor visits, more medication. More money for the health insurance companies. It seems like good old-fashioned conflict of interest.