So let's say 2 countries are at war, but as both aren't able to take any military action. One of them decides to wage a long term junk food war to destroy the health of the nation.

The plans goes like this: Country A starts several food chains all across Country B. Shops like McDolan and Kemtucky Fried Chickens become a regular sight at every corner. They lower the prices of the meals to be 90% lower than their actual cost.

They also invest in soft drinks and lower the prices for Bebsi and Koka Kola. Basically even a beggar can now afford a full meal.

Is there a way for this to work or would the other country's economy actually benefit from this? What would be the effect on the economy for country A?

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    $\begingroup$ I wasn't aware that it hasn't already happened. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting you bring up discounted/subsidized prices. You're teasing with the idea of using the powers of trade and economics to impact the overall health of a nation. Look at similar real world examples -> US embargo of Cuba, where the trade of medicine and machinery was restricted. A nation would be better of subsidizing commodities (think: sugar, corn), while adding additional taxes to medicine, vegetables, etc. They wouldn't have to open fast food chains - the local fast food chains would adapt to market prices themselves. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ You missed it. The junk food war happened and we lost. And why would a country need to actually create food chains if bad fast food already exists in a target country? If junk food already exists, just subsidize advertising for the least healthy foods. So your tactic might be to acquire media to control advertising rather than getting into the junk food business and selling it yourself. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 10:00
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    $\begingroup$ Not to mention the confusion that is wrought as the letters of popular junk food companies and products are changed to be completely different that the originals. The horrors of war! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 10:53
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    $\begingroup$ This looks like a questions where there will be many equally valid answers. Under current site policy this question isn't suitable for this site. It is site policy to evaluate every question under the current rules to prevent confusion with new members. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 17:16

7 Answers 7


This is economic warfare, not a threat to health

"Junk" food is not by itself a cause of bad health

Every week / month / year / decade there is a new type of food that is described as The Bad Food™. And every time a bunch of people will make a career or just a quick buck out to prophesying against this latest "scourge".

One of the most famous of these is the film Super Size Me.

Synopsis: Guy goes on a diet where he only eats at McDonalds. He gains weight, his body goes haywire, his blood values are shot to hell. So he concludes this is all McDonalds's fault and it is the food that is to blame.


No, not so...

When looking closer at what the film-maker did, it turns out that he was deliberately over-eating, consuming twice the calories someone of his gender, weight and daily physical activity should be eating. He also went from a physically active life to becoming a couch potato.

Essentially he ran head first into a wall and then blamed the wall for his injuries.

Other people reacted to this and also went on McDonalds-Only diets. But they did not over-eat, and instead they stayed at the required caloric intake and maintained their regimen of physical activities. These people instead lost weight, and their blood values improved.

The conclusion is that if you over-eat, you will end up with bad health, no matter what it is that you eat. The so called "junk" food is not nearly as much junk as it is made out to be. The real snake in the garden is ourselves, eating too much while not having physically active lives.

So can this work as a form of "warfare"? Well... no, because while you might induce a cost in the form of increased medical cost due to over-eating, you have almost abolished the food cost for this country. This means lots of money over to do fun stuff with, like for instance be collected as taxes to boost the health services. And of course the soldiery will not be afflicted by this because they are on a fixed diet anyway and are keeping up an exercise regimen to keep them fit.

So the people will not be very much afflicted by this.


...what you are doing is economic warfare. You just pulled the rug out from all the commodity producers that are producing foodstuffs in country B. Unless they have some place else to dump their stuff and get some revenue for it, they risk going bankrupt.

This will not slip past unnoticed. You can expect tariffs, economic sanctions, and even state enforced boycotts against wares, services and companies from country A to stave off this sort of behavior, long before people start gaining weight.


Junk food? Why not opium ? It's more effective in both "health destruction" and economical aspects.

The main flaw of such a war is educating your people or just forcing bad-habit-punishing (up to death penalty) laws is very effective in protecting country B from such "attacks".

In case of junk food war country B can just increase taxes for junk food industry and suck funds from country A, having only a small part of people being badly affected by junk food.

Even now the state actually benefits (or prevents — it depends on the point of view) from "destroying national health": (here were some made up numbers, I've decided to give more accurate ones) — you should know, that when you buy a pack of cigarettes in USA, you pay from \$1.18 to \$5.36 directly to state budget. A lot of countries today have similar tobacco/alcohol taxes.

P.S.: It's cheaper to just covertly fund local extremists, unless they turn against you when you stop funding (I'm not saying this exact theory is completely true or proven, yet it makes sense and such a strategy seems to be worth investing).

  • $\begingroup$ "Can just increase taxes" - This assumes that country B has a well-functioning government. In the case of a corrupt or uncaring government, then officials could be bribed not to increase the taxes, or the population might be living in such poverty or famine that the idea of such cheap food might be a relief and be very appealing to them, not to mention they may have poor education and don't know the dangers of junk food. The companies may be well-established in country B (bringing jobs, etc.) so the government might not wish to oppose them if they don't realise a "war" is taking place $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ Your words have sense, however the cheap illegal drug import will cause a lot more impact on nation's health and crime rates even with caring and functional government. Why would one even think of ruining uneducated nation with non-caring government in the first place? As far as I see it - this nation is alredy digging its own grave. Also, as mentioned before, legal tobacco and alcohol do their "job" pretty good in not-so-prosperous countries with bad education/government EVEN without any bad intents from other countries, fuelled purely by local companies'/government's lust for profit. $\endgroup$
    – haldagan
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ Have to disagree with your argument re opium &c. Start with the fact that most people simply will not (over) use such things, because the effects are not pleasant. The only way these have significant adverse affects on the target country is if it tries to suppress their use. (And perversely, the act of making them illegal makes them more attractive.) For practical examples, see Prohibition, the War Against Drugs, and of course your own example of the Chinese Opium Wars. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 19:04

On it's own...I'd say no, but there are some conditions that would make this more likely to succeed.

Your number 1 issue here is you can set up junk food huts up all you want, however you need the majority of the population to depend on this as their primary food source. Most likely you will get a good number of the populace going to these fast food setups, but you will also have a good portion of pushback from people that follow stricter diets (be it vegetarian/vegan or health conscious peoples). If you were to combine this tactic with a social media manipulation (try to depress the population through social media...manipulate facebook into showing negative/scare posts at all times) you might get a better rate of success. But most likely this plan will be met with a social backlash after too many people in the population begin to experience negative diet related effects.

If you really wanted to be cruel, irradiate the majority of the food these places are serving and let a low dose of radiation get into the neighboring countries population.

  • $\begingroup$ There is also vegan junk food. French Fries are perfectly vegan, for example, as long as they are fried in vegetable oil (which most fast food shops do) and served with a vegan condiment (like ketchup). $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Philipp - I'd like to think so too, but you'd be surprised how many chains use beef drippings and other non-vegan friendly options in their fries. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 17:20

I think it's a bit silly, as this approach takes the ridiculous long term view, and has a significant chance of health experts stepping in to address/correct the issue.

There's also cultural factors which will affect how rapidly fast food is embraced by people, etc.

Far more simple if you want to wipe out a nation is to start supplying their manufacturers with subtly poisoned ingredients, or sneak deadly biological agents into food shipments bound for their shores.

You can always frame some terrorist organization, or blame it all on a terrible and unfortunate accident.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm gonna call the Food authorities now. $\endgroup$
    – Skye
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 13:55

It could possibly work like an illicit drug trade. Especially if country B doesn't have a strong government, Country A might use this sort of turn a nearby poor country into a dependent state by saddling it with the debt, need for healthcare assistance and reduced worker efficiency that come with a really bad diet. If the sizes of the countries are radically different, with A being much larger, the cost could be low enough in absolute terms to A to ignore. It wouldn't cost Germany a meaningful amount of money to do this to Luxembourg for instance. Sure country A could just invade, but that might look terrible on a world stage compared to something like this.

As @AlexJohnson mentioned, this has the feel of a lot of past CIA operations in Central and South America.


Once a military war looks likely, conscriptees/draftees will be forced through basic training. If they're overweight or obese, they'll have to do more P.T. to lose weight but they will get there.

A more effective form of food warfare may be for Country A to try and leverage control over the food production & supply of Country B and use that to manipulate Country B's economy to the extent that Country B can't afford to buy weapons.


It won't work. Capitalists of nation B, that own local junk-food businesses, will immediately start crying a river to their government about unfair foreign competition, that practices predatory pricing. And the government of nation B will likely respond. Not even because they care about long-term health of their population, but because of deeply entrenched influence of local capitalists.


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