Blog: Competitive eating

Catherine Sleep | 11 July 2006

It’s been a weekend of great sporting triumph – Mauresmo, Federer, heck, even Zidane, showed why they are considered to be at the very pinnacle of their chosen sport. So with sporting prowess very much on my mind, it was just delightful to pick up the paper yesterday and learn that we in the food industry also have a race to run.

It’s called competitive eating, and it’s not for wimps.

The financial stakes may not be as high as those offered by, say, the Wimbledon tennis tournament, but the winner of the World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship, for example, gets US$3,500 for their (gastric) pains. Under the banner of the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE), speed-eaters chow their way though any number of designated categories such as meatballs, tacos, chicken nuggets and chilli.

Predictably, it’s not a pretty sight as competitors cram food into their bulging cheeks and swill it down with water in a bid to eat the most in the allotted time, but the real damage has to be happening on the inside. The really interesting aspect is that this particular event is sponsored by, an online gambling site. That’s appropriate, since competitive eaters are surely gambling with their health. I bet no food manufacturer would touch it with a barge pole these days – even those that make indulgent foods are keen to stress that their products should just be a small part of a balanced diet.

They may be out of step with the bulk of society (pun intended), but for competitive eaters, excess is a right to be celebrated and exploited to the max.

International Federation of Competitive Eating


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