The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) have warned that upselling is a major contributor to the rise in obesity in the UK. Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH has said that the public are often pressured into buying more calories than they were originally intending to which, over the course of the year start to add up ‘without us noticing.’

This is particularly concerning due to the fact that upselling occurs most prominently in outlets that serve food high in saturated fat. The statistics around upselling are quite shocking with RSPH reporting that 78% of people experience upselling every single week. This led to 35% of people adding sides to their meal, such as chips and 34% buying larger coffees. On average, upselling has been convincing each person to purchase an extra 17,000 calories over the course of a year.

But are the public only being pressured into buying products at the point of sale, or is this issue much wider spread within society?

Obviously advertising is used by companies in order to reach a wide range of people and convince them to buy their product. However, some advertising goes beyond individual products or companies and is led by an entire industry, namely meat and dairy. These industries are subsidised by the government and use health organisations to send the message to consumers that their products are must have food items.

Meat and dairy have both been linked to a myriad of different health problems, particularly major diseases. Despite this, organisations such as the British Heart Foundation still promote the consumption of these products in a healthy diet. Overconsumption of saturated fat is the leading cause of heart disease, as it clogs the arteries. However, foods like meat burgers, eggs and cheese are all incredibly high in saturated fats.

Additionally, in many Western countries children are often given a free carton of milk daily in school. By doing this schools perpetuate the myth that cow’s milk is necessary for strong, healthy bones. According to many people, the main nutritional benefit of cow’s milk is the amount of calcium in it. However, there are plenty of foods that provide a huge amount of calcium on a plant-based diet without consuming the cancer promoting hormone IGF1. On top of this, cow’s milk contains casein, a protein which, according to studies, stops the human body from being able to absorb calcium.

And what about meat?

David Robinson Simon, an attorney and author, argues that meat and dairy producers are work alongside governments to push consumption of animal products.

In his book Meatonomics, he explains the government subsidies to meat and dairy industries, legislation and regulation in the provision of meat, eggs and dairy at the low prices we are therefore accustomed to.

“This triple whammy of messaging, legislation and price control … deprives consumers of the ability to make informed and independent decisions of what and how much to eat.”

“We can say without controversy or doubt that when a checkoff program speaks in the US – when it says drink more milk, eat more beef – that is the federal government of our country telling consumers to eat more animal foods.”

Although upselling in a cafe or restaurant may be contributing to obesity there are many other problems within the food industry that also need addressing. Meat, eggs and dairy are all promoted for consumption throughout our lives.

Whilst the tactic of upselling may be convincing people they want unnecessary food items, the meat and dairy industry are convincing people they need unnecessary items and the impact it’s having on public health is huge.