Book Review: Fast Food Nation By Eric Scholosser

BOOK REVIEW:

FAST FOOD NATION: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser.

Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2001. ISBN: 0395977894

Why, why, why are so many, many, many people so sick, sick, sick? The main reason is staring right back at them from their dinner. It's the junk food, people. An ever-increasing proportion of our food is fast food.

"In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, they spent more than $110 billion," writes Eric Schlosser in his book Fast Food Nation. "They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music - combined. . . On any given day in the United States, about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant." (p 3)

What does this mean to our health? Everything. Fast food is a high-additive, high-fat, high-meat, high-sugar, and high-salt diet. And what's just as bad, it's a low-fiber, low vitamin, low mineral diet to boot. Fast food is exactly the wrong way to eat.

And we are teaching our kids just how to do it . . .wrong.

Chapter 2 discusses how the fast-food industry sells to kids, especially in schools. This is the last thing we need; a typical teenage boy already drinks 20 oz of soda a day. Indoctrination starts early: page 30 of Fast Food Nation shows a superb photo of Ronald McDonald speaking to a large room full of enraptured elementary schoolchildren. How can this be? Because the cafeterias in so many of our school districts are for sale for the right price. The actual franchise income that any school district may get pales when compared to what fast food industry takes in. After all, says Schlosser, "A medium Coke that sells for $1.29 contains roughly 9 cents' worth of syrup."

Adults are to blame. We, not our kids, are the ones who allowed fast food in our schools. We are the ones who let Harlem Memorial Hospital contain its very own McDonald's. It is our money that enables McDonald's to open FIVE new restaurants every DAY. It is our U.S. Federal Communications Commission and our U.S. Federal Trade Commission that permit every American child to watch 10,000 television food ads every year. Are these ads for carrots? Not according to Yale professor Kelly Brownell, PhD., who says that 95% of TV food commercials promote candy, soft drinks and fast food.

Fast Food Nation is much more than a history of soda pop and the flipped burger. In Chapter 3, Schlosser takes us "Behind the Counter" to examine labor issues in the fast food biz. "No other industry in the United States has a workforce so dominated by adolescents," he writes. And teenagers work hard and they work cheap. Too cheap. "Increasing the federal minimum wage by a dollar (an hour) would add about two cents to the cost of a fast food hamburger." Fast Food Nations also explores "Why the Fries Taste Good" in Chapter 5, as well as the very real dangers for those who work at meat packing factories.

Your making a point to read the exceptionally well-written Fast Food Nation would be the perfect New Year's resolution.



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