Unli rice and the ethos of our age

You don't take away unli rice from the Filipinos

On June 14, Sen. Cynthia Villar set off a furore by calling for a ban on unlimited rice servings in restaurants. The senator made the remark during a hearing of the Senate committee on agriculture and food which she chairs. Unlimited rice servings started as a marketing ploy of one fast-food chain, which dubbed it “unli rice,” but the gimmick soon became an industry practice.

The Philippines consumes annually 12.1 million metric tons of rice, but produces only about 12.0 million, making it one of the largest rice importers. Filipinos are known to over-consume – and sometimes waste – rice.

Lack of balance in the Filipino diet, and over-consumption of rice, is suspected as a cause of the increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes. According to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease study, the risk factors accounting for most of the country’s disease burden are dietary risks, tobacco and smoking, and high blood pressure. The prevalence of overweight among adults in the country has increased from 16.9 percent in 1998 to 31.1 percent in 2013.

A study in Cebu shows that increasing socioeconomic status, urbanization, and globalization of diets (multinational food franchises) all contribute to increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes. Cebuano offspring consumed more obesity-inducing diet than their mothers due tothe shift away from home dietary intake. Thus, from a public-health point of view, there is a strong basis for the promotion of healthier diets and perhaps, even for the regulation of carbohydrate (and sugar) intakes, as suggested by Sen. Villar.

So how does one explain the rather virulent reception among netizens of Sen. Villar’s suggestion to reduce carbohydrate intake?  I think it has to do with the entitlement ethos of the age, especially among younger people who have this notion that they deserve everything, including every cup of cereal that they can eat.The great philosophers spoke of a life of moderation in everything. None ever spoke of unlimited wants and desires. Today, wantonness is invoked not only as a right but a sa virtue. What an age to live in! Unli rice pa more!

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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