GLUTTONY FOR FAME: HOW SAFE ARE EAT­ING CON­TESTS?

A DU stu­dent re­cently rup­tured his stom­ach lin­ing af­ter eat­ing a large num­ber of chilli burg­ers at an eat­ing con­test or­gan­ised by a west Delhi eatery. Ex­perts say that com­pet­i­tive eat­ing is a dan­ger­ous trend and it must be dis­cour­aged

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Lifestyle - Shara Ashraf shara.ashraf@hin­dus­tan­times.com

AWest Delhi res­tau­rant re­cently or­gan­ised a burger eat­ing con­test and an­nounced an ir­re­sistible prize for the win­ner — meals on the house for an en­tire month for the per­son who would eat max­i­mum num­ber of burg­ers. DU stu­dent Garv Gupta took up the chal­lenge and won it, but with a scary con­se­quence. Next morn­ing, Gupta no­ticed blood in his vomit and rushed to the doc­tor, who found out that he had rup­tured the in­ner lin­ing of his stom­ach be­cause of gulp­ing down too many chilli burg­ers.

While this seems like the first case of in­jury caused by com­pet­i­tive eat­ing in Delhi, food con­tests caused two deaths in the US re­cently. Travis Malouff, 42, died due to as­phyxia last April. He was try­ing to de­vour an over­sized dough­nut in 80 sec­onds to win a food con­test at a dough­nut shop called Voodoo Dough­nuts in Den­ver, Colorado, US. Last March, Caitlin Nel­son, 20, had choked and died dur­ing a fund-rais­ing pan­ca­keeat­ing con­test held at a univer­sity in Fair­field, Con­necti­cut, United States.

EAT­ING FOR FAME IS DAN­GER­OUS

Dr Mohsin Wali, physi­cian to the Pres­i­dent of In­dia says that an un­trained guest par­tic­i­pat­ing in a food con­test is like a green­horn speed­ing up his car on a rac­ing track. “Con­sum­ing enor­mous amount of food in one go can cause se­ri­ous in­jury. Apart from the amount, the speed at which the con­tes­tant eats can choke them to death. They don’t chew, they just gulp down the food. While do­ing this, a lot of air goes in­side their stom­ach thor­ough the food pipe and badly in­flates the stom­ach. Food is sup­posed to go down by grav­ity but when you eat force­fully and quickly, it is un­nat­u­ral. There is no gas­tric peri­stal­sis, the mus­cle con­trac­tion that dis­in­te­grates food in your stom­ach and sends it to var­i­ous pro­cess­ing units in the di­ges­tive tract. Your stom­ach lin­ing can end up get­ting rup­tured.” Also, when peo­ple take part in burger or dough­nut eat­ing con­tests, they eat an enor­mous amount of bread which swells up in the stom­ach and dou­bles in size. “It soaks up all di­ges­tive juices and leaves the stom­ach dry. This causes fric­tion that can also lead to rup­ture. The stom­ach gets no time to pro­duce di­ges­tive juices,” he ex­plains.

STOP APING TRENDS

Dr Sau­rabh Arora says such cases are a re­sult of blindly copy­ing trends from the In­ter­net and tele­vi­sion with­out un­der­stand­ing the dan­gers. “When an eat­ing com­pe­ti­tion hap­pens on TV, a lot of prepa­ra­tion goes into it. The par­tic­i­pants are pro­fes­sion­als, and even they are prone to risks. Restau­rants should not in­volve un­trained guest in such con­test, es­pe­cially in the ab­sence of proper emer­gency care at the venue. They do such things for quick pub­lic­ity,” he says. Dr Arora says that since cus­tomers rarely file li­a­bil­ity suits in In­dia, as the process is slow and ex­pen­sive, busi­nesses do not con­sider such ac­tiv­i­ties a risk. The ab­sence of a reg­u­la­tory body for food con­tests in In­dia also makes it easy for or­gan­is­ers to dis­re­gard safety mea­sures. “A fun event can turn into a dis­as­ter in the ab­sence of guide­lines. The risks must be spelt out clearly. Lack of ex­pert su­per­vi­sion is dan­ger­ous. Also, there should be a se­lec­tion cri­te­ria. Only those who qual­ify af­ter heath check­ups should be al­lowed,” says chef Manish Mehro­tra. Dr Wali ad­vises young peo­ple not to get car­ried away by what they see on the tele­vi­sion. “In the long run, th­ese con­tests are not good for pro­fes­sional eat­ing cham­pi­ons, too. So, one can imag­ine what harm they can do to those who are not trained. It’s like pun­ish­ing your own body. It can cause ir­re­versible dam­age to your body,” he says.

ENCOURAGING OBESITY?

Delhi is a city that tops obesity charts. Thanks to junk food ad­dic­tion, 1 in 3 kids of top pri­vate Delhi schools are obese, ac­cord­ing to an AIIMS sur­vey. In such a sit­u­a­tion, how wise it is to lure young peo­ple to de­vour over­sized burg­ers and hot­dogs in the promise of free meals? “It to­tally de­fies the ideas of healthy, nu­tri­tious eat­ing and pro­motes junk food ad­dic­tion,” says Dr Wali

WHY GLORIFY GLUTTONY?

We should also not over­look the eth­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of such con­tests. Such an os­ten­ta­tious show­case of food and its wastage is of­fen­sive when you have a large part of the pop­u­la­tion dy­ing of hunger. “We need to re­think such con­tests. Our so­ci­ety is di­vided into two halves. One that needs to eat less, and one that has noth­ing to eat. There was a time when nawabs who lived a showy, filthy rich life ate 9 to 10 dishes in one go. They would pur­posely vomit food so that they could try more dishes. We must as­sess what is the mes­sage we are send­ing to young peo­ple,” says Dr Wali.

Apart from the in­sane amount of food, the speed at which the con­tes­tant eat can be fa­tal. Th­ese con­tests are risky for pro­fes­sional eat­ing cham­pi­ons, too. So, imag­ine the harm they can do to those who are not trained. It’s like pun­ish­ing your own body. It can cause ir­re­versible dam­age.

DR MOHSIN WALI, SE­NIOR CON­SUL­TANT PHYSI­CIAN

Ea­ter­ies or­gan­ise such con­tests for quick pub­lic­ity. Cus­tomers rarely file li­a­bil­ity suits in In­dia, as the process is slow and ex­pen­sive, so no one con­sid­ers such ac­tiv­i­ties a risk. The ab­sence of a reg­u­la­tory body for food con­tests makes it easy to dis­re­gard safety mea­sures.

SAU­RABH ARORA, FOUNDER, FOOD SAFETY HELPLINE

A fun event can turn into a dis­as­ter in the ab­sence of guide­lines. The risks must be spelt out clearly. Lack of ex­pert su­per­vi­sion is dan­ger­ous. Also, there should be a se­lec­tion cri­te­ria. Only those who qual­ify af­ter heath check­ups should be al­lowed.

MANISH MEHRO­TRA, CHEF

PHO­TOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

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