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Deep fried capture

Next time you tuck into some takeaways, maybe have a think about how informed your choice was.

Dr Trent Smith (Department of Economics) and Professor Attila Tasnádi, from Corvinus University of Budapest, have developed an economic model of “deep capture”, which they have demonstrated by applying it to the food industry's response to obesity.

They explain that “deep capture” is the phenomenon in which industry uses public relations to influence legislators, regulators, the media, celebrities and even academic researchers.

Smith and Tasnádi argue that when industrialised countries began to show startling obesity rates, the fast food industry opted not to improve nutritional quality, but to use “deep capture” to manipulate public perceptions about the causes of the obesity epidemic.

They contend that the industry was able to do this because consumers do not have detailed information about food science or the exact nutritional content of the particular meals they eat.

“There is this very simple idea that you let producers compete and you let consumers choose and everything should work out well,” Smith says. “We are saying that if there is enough power on the industry side, they can change that equilibrium.”

Smith recounts that the last time he ate takeaways was about five years ago, as an experiment in which he consumed different types of fast food and recorded blood sugar levels that were synonymous with diabetes.

Smith and Tasnádi's research has been published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Photo: Graham Warman
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