Fast food chains' growth feeds health fears in China

16:22, April 01, 2010      

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As McDonald's and KFC ratchet up plans to expand deeper into China, experts warned that there must be stricter regulations on fast food chains, citing the rapid rise in obesity and diabetes among adolescents and children.

McDonald's will double its number of outlets in China in the next three or four years to 2,000, it announced Tuesday.

And the fast-food giant will franchise more restaurants, Tim Fenton, McDonald's president for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, said Tuesday at a press conference.

Thus far it has franchised only six restaurants in China.

The chain will open 150-175 new outlets in China this year, said Zeng Qishan, CEO of McDonald's China.

"China has become McDonald's fastest-growing market," Zeng said in an earlier interview with the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald.

But food experts feared the impact the expansion would have on children.

Obesity among children and adolescents ranging in age from 7 to 17 tripled from 1982 to 2002, according to the latest national nutrition survey.

"That rise of obesity in a certain area is directly related to the intensity of fast food restaurants," said Fan Zhihong, a food expert with China Agricultural University.

In the period from 2004 to 2008, McDonald's opened only a total of 430 restaurants, averaging about 86 each year.

The company announced in late January that it is targeting a three-fold sales growth in China by 2015.

McDonald's launched its own fresh coffee brand, McCafe, last June and started offering wireless Internet access to attract coffee drinkers.

The 2008 global sales of Yum Brands, the owner of KFC, totaled only about 50 percent of those of McDonald's. But the situation is just about the opposite in China, as McDonald's has about only 1,137 outlets, while KFC has roughly 2,900 outlets in China.

Unlike McDonald's approach of directly running its outlets, KFC has franchised about 200 outlets in China so far, or 8 percent of its total restaurants.

Source: Global Times


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