Cricket Australia’s KFC deal promotes obesity, experts say

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Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 20

Cricket Australia, which governs the nation’s most popular summer sport, is indirectly contributing to an “obesity epidemic” by relying on the KFC fried-chicken restaurant chain as a sponsor, researchers said.

The organization should review the funding arrangement and “consider its responsibilities” to help fight weight gain among youth, researchers from the University of Sydney said in a letter published on Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia.

The number of overweight and obese children in Australia has risen “significantly” since 1995, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Television advertisements have featured Australian captain Ricky Ponting and teammates promoting KFC meals, said Stephen Colagiuri, a professor of metabolic health at the university’s Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise who co-authored the letter.

The ads were “quite frankly over the top,” Colagiuri said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Prominent sporting bodies like Cricket Australia and others do need to take a more responsible attitude to advertising and the sponsorship they have for their products.”

In a separate letter to the journal, Cricket Australia said it relies on sponsors including KFC, owned by Kentucky-based Yum Brands, to help fund programs aimed at encouraging “healthy and active lifestyles” among children.

“In relation to KFC, we believe in a little of everything and everything in moderation,” Peter Young, Cricket Australia’s general manager of public affairs, said in the letter.

“Our view on alcohol is the same. The overall issue is about balance,” Young said.

The average KFC meal contains about 1,000 calories, which the average person would burn with about three hours of walking, Colagiuri said.

“Obviously Cricket Australia have some contractual obligations which they need to finish, but we would sincerely hope that they review their association when these contractual obligations are over,” Colagiuri said.

KFC signed on as Cricket Australia’s “official fast-food restaurant” in 2003, the Melbourne-based governing body said. KFC sponsors international Twenty20 cricket matches in Australia and the nation’s domestic Twenty20 competition.