The Fattest Country

March 9, 2011
Because of its huge amount of fast food restaurants, America is the fattest country in the world. Americans spend more money on fast food than on magazines, movies, books, newspapers, and music altogether. The top four, billion dollar establishments starting with the most popular are Subway, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Burger King.

However, fast food restaurants cause more environmental damage in America than coal mining and oil extraction. It not only causes environmental damage but also damages to the health of animals, humans, and causes economic damage. For humans, the damage begins slowly, usually starting in childhood. When children get accustomed to the fun ritual of eating fast food, it establishes bad eating habits that carry on into adulthood. People who do not eventually break the habit of fast food addiction become part of the millions of obese Americans who are trapped in the greasy claws of the fast food industry.

Young children unknowingly get caught in the illusion of fast food. Assistant professor of the Public Health Reducing Cancer Disparities program, Elva Arredondo said, “Findings from the [statistical hypothesis test] suggest that overweight children are more likely to recognize fast food logos, while the opposite was true of the normal weight children” (77). Some fast food consumption starts from logo recognition. “Children as young as 2-11 develop consumption preferences resulting from commercial exposure; at the same time, children in this age group develop strategies for purpose requests and negotiation” (Arredondo 77-78). These “preferences” put pressure on parents to buy more and more fast food for their child’s pleasure. The more parents buy this unnecessary pleasure for their children, the worse their economic status gets. Arredondo states, “Recent studies show that fast food restaurant density and the number of McDonald’s outlets are higher in inferior neighborhoods” (77). In a manner of speaking, fast food companies go after the little people, either “little people” meaning young children or people with little or no money to spend on junk food they do not need.

Even if parents were able to keep their children from becoming fast food gluttons, there is always a possibility that a child could get caught up in his or her teen years. For teens, eating fast food oppresses their immune system and makes them vulnerable to diseases. According to a writer of Women’s Health Guide, Tracee Cornworth, “Eating fast food meals causes teens and young adults to gain more weight and face an increased risk of developing insulin resistance according to the results of a study funded by the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)…” Fast food not only promotes obesity, but it also serves diabetes on the side. “Obesity and diabetes is on the rise in this country, and this important study highlights the value of healthy eating habits,’ said NHLBI Acting Director Barbara Alving, M.D” (Cornforth). Cornforth affirms, “One reason for weight gain may be that a single meal from one of these restaurants often contains enough calories to satisfy a person’s caloric requirement for an entire day.” That is up to 2,000 calories eaten in one sitting! On top of all those calories from one meal, more calories are added with additional meals. Gender and socioeconomic status manipulate a person’s ability to oppose fast food, Cornforth declares, “Study participants included 3,031 young black and white adults who were between the ages of 18-30 from 1985-1986…According to the study, men visited fast food restaurants more frequently than women and blacks more frequently than whites.”

Adults are fatter than they have been in the past twenty years, and they are still getting larger. Matthew Boyle, a senior writer of the Fortune magazine, says, “After all, two-thirds of American adults are now over weight, and the fast food industry has been targeted as the primary villain in the obesity crisis.” At least people recognize the culprit, but is that bringing about any change? According to Boyle, “In the past few years [the fast food industry] has been slapped with numerous amounts of lawsuits on behalf of overweight kids and has been the subject of powerful polemics in the media, such as the 2002 bestseller Fast Food Nation and recent documentary Super Size Me. Is it any wonder, then, that Wendy’s wants to put oranges on its menu?”
Apparently, the problem is not that people do not recognize the “villain” in America’s health crisis. The issue is that although most know that fast food is not good for them, they eat it anyway. The reasons for this “although I know it is bad, I will eat it” action are because of the persuasive advertisement of fast food, the accessibility and the inexpensive price. Boyle explains, “Kimberly Egan, a partner at the center for Culinary Development in San Francisco, who has done menu improvements for McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s rattles off words that give quality cues ‘slow roasted’, ‘tender’, ‘grilled’, ‘spicy’, ‘fresh cut’ [these descriptions are normally found on TV advertisements]. Egan says that fast food companies use these words to make people think fast food is healthier for them.” It is no amazement that people become subject to their cravings from advertisement with narratives like “slow roasted” and “tender.”
Boyle states that in September 2002 McDonald’s announced plans to change their frying oil, which would cut trans-fat levels 48% by February 2003. He also says that filling a typical fast food fryer with 35 pounds of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil costs about $13; filling it instead with reduced trans-fat soybean oil might cost about $20. Fast food’s unhealthy fat food is only cheap for customers as it is for them. People buy unhealthy food because it is easier on their pocket book than healthy food is.
Next to obesity, fast food industries abuse their employees. According to Master of Science in Education, Jeffery Zurlinden, “Instead of hiring skilled, unionized workers, meat packing plants frequently recruit recent immigrants who are willing to work hard for low pay on assembly lines that turn live cattle into frozen hamburger at record speed.” Fast food industries may not being doing this horrid meat process themselves, but they are condoning it by purchasing the meat. According to Roger Horowitz, Associate Director at the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society, “…throughout the twentieth century, meatpacking left behind thousands of permanently damaged workers…the level of workplace dangers in meatpacking is no longer accurately reflected in government statistics.” .Not only are the employees getting harmed, but the meat also gets contaminated. According to Zurlinden, “Manure gets mixed with meat, contaminating it with salmonella and E.coli. Schlosser reports a US Department of Health (USDA) study that found 78.6% of ground beef contained microbes spread primarily by fecal material.” Sounds gross, does it not? Yet millions of unsuspecting people eat this “manure meat” everyday. No wonder these E.coli poisonings happen so frequently. About for 4% of people infected with E.coli develop hemolytic uremic syndrome [a disease that destroys red blood cells] and about 5% of children who develop the syndrome die” (Zurlinden). 4 and 5% may not seem like very much to some people, but would anyone really want to risk their child’s life or their own over a hamburger or chicken nuggets? If there were 25,000 children in America who developed this disease each year, there would be 1250 dead children on a yearly basis!
Adults are not the only ones hurt while working. Teens are also victim to pain while working for fast food companies. Zurlinden says, “Fast food runs on cheap labor, usually supplied by teenagers. Child labor laws that restrict work schedules are often ignored at fast food chains. Although part time employment can teach teenagers responsibility, teenagers who work are more likely to abuse drugs and get into trouble. They also risk getting hurt: Each year about 20,000 teenagers suffer work related injuries, about twice the adult rate.” Since fast food companies want cheap help, then why would they spend precious time and money properly training their teen employees?
Some people may say that they have been eating fast food for years and have never gotten ill from it. Yes, some may have done that, but there is always a first time, and why wait until the first time to understand the risk and do something about it? Some may say that fast food is easy to access and is good for on-the-go people. If one is eager to stop gambling his or her life for fast food and wants to eat healthy, there may be a better way to acquire quick meals; making a simple sandwich or slow roasting food for dinner, while one is away from home, are just some examples of how to avoid fast food.
This epidemic should have been resolved long before today, but there is still a chance to save lives. Just imagine America losing its “fattest country” label, obesity rates dropping, and young children learning to live a healthier style of life. Fast food companies could stop condoning the dangerous meat packing industries and begin purchasing meat from organic farmers. They could cease advertising and selling unhealthy, greasy foods, and start advertising healthy, fresh vegetables and uncontaminated meat. They could acknowledge child labor laws and create a safer working environment for teens. They could stop sugar coating the obesity issue with orange slices and get right to the nitty gritty.
Works Cited
Boyle, Matthew. "CAN YOU REALLY MAKE FAST FOOD HEALTHY?." Fortune 150.3 (2004): 134-140.Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 9 Mar. 2011.
Cornforth, Tracee. "How Eating Fast Food Affects the Health of Teens and Young Adults."Women's Health Issues - Women's Health Questions and Answers - Women's Sexual Health. 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://womenshealth.about.com/od/girlshealth101/a/fastfoodteenwei.htm>.
David Dozier, et al. "Brand Name Logo Recognition of Fast Food and Healthy Food among Children."Journal of Community Health 34.1 (2009): 73-78. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 9 Mar. 2011.
Horowitz, Roger. ""That Was a Dirty Job!" Technology and Workplace Hazards in Meatpacking over the Long Twentieth Century -- Horowitz 5 (2): 13." Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. 2008. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://labor.dukejournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/5/2/13>.
Zurlinden, Jeffrey. "Fast Food's Hidden Dangers." Pope John Said It Best, "Capitalism Without Responsibility" 14 Apr. 2001. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <http://www.fa-ir.org/ai/fastfood_hidden.htm>.





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