Fast Food Nation

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American's love affair with fast food has been on a steady growth curve since the end of World War II but has really picked up steam since the1970's. Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, confronts this invasion of fast food on the United States. The primary topics of this book deal with how it happened, why it happened, and the impact it has had, and is having, on America and the world. The increase of fast food dining, after the 1970s, has been fueled by the sustained drop in the hourly wage and the shift of additional mothers employed at a job away from the home. It is interesting to note that in 1975 only about one in three mothers with young children were employed. Today that figure has changed to two out of three working outside of the home. In the 1970's 75% of food purchases in this nation went toward food products for cooking at home. It is estimated that today almost 50% is spent for food purchased and consumed outside the home with a majority of that amount going to fast food restaurants. And McDonald's, which had a little more than 1,000 restaurants before 1970's is now opening around 2,000 per year and its total establishments have topped 30,000.
Eating out weekly at such fast food establishments as KFC, McDonalds, and Subways, the Generation X and Generation Y groups of Americans have grown up surrounded by a fast food culture. It is everywhere; it's inside magazines, on television, and even on toys. It has become ingrained in the American lifestyle. And that American way of life is being exported to the far corners of the world. Schlosser insists that the large purchasing power of the large fast food business has an unparalleled amount of control over the country's agricultural and farming systems, eliminates the chance for smaller businesses to compete, and standardizes the same food served from coast to coast. The specialties that made of the unique characteristics of different parts of the nation are slowly dissipating.
After dealing with the phenomenal growth of the fast food industry Schlosser goes on to look at the effects from the inside out by starting off in a meat packing facility in Lexington, Nebraska and alludes to this as 'The most dangerous job'. This is due to the grime and toxic fumes emanating from the process plus the chance of injuries as the large companies continually strive for greater production. Sanitary conditions of such slaughterhouses make the environment ripe for the outbreak of diseases.
What may be more of a long health care issue is the long term effect of what fast food is doing to people who make it a staple to their diet. Before broaching that subject Schlosser delves into the fast food industry's ingenuity in targeting the audience from a young age. Fast food establishments were quick to realize that those parents who were working longer hours away from home were eager to relieve their guilt by taking their children to fun places to eat. Children were targeted in various advertising mediums resulting in their asking, or begging, parents to take out to eat in places like McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. Many establishments constructed indoor/outdoor playgrounds to complete the family outing.
The second portion of Fast Food Nation is where the Schlosser really begins to talk about the dark side of fast food. He informs the reader of the dangers of consuming
fast food, the not so pleasant things that go into your food, the hardships of the
workers employed by fast food industries, and how it is continues to grow worldwide. In fact fast food restaurants are increasing in number overseas faster than they are in the United States. So the change that has taken place in America over the last four decades is spreading around the world.
Schlosser is quick to point out that not only is food the culprit but the drinks that go along with that food. He refers to 'Liquid Candy', a report by author Michael Jackson, to point out that detrimental impact of the soft drink beverage industry on U.S. children. To drive home his point he states that today U.S. boys drink twice as much soda as they do milk but 20 years ago the exact opposite was true. Additional one out of five 1 & 2 year olds are given soda to drink, sometimes via a baby bottle. The beverage companies have seen a plateau in their sales to adults so reaching out and increasing sales to the youth has helped them meet their company projections.
Turning his attention back to food Schlosser gives examples of fast food being sold through schools, sometimes at very low margins, with the strategy of increasing brand loyalty. Many school districts are happy with the arrangement and appear not to be concerned with the negative long term health aspects of this arrangement. However, many, if not most, experts agree that the proliferation of fast food in every aspect of our society is directly related to the pervasive obesity problem affecting over 44 million Americans with the numbers growing. In addition to that there are 6 million rated as super-obese Schlosser lays out a very simple reason for this by saying that as Americans eat an unhealthier fast food they are at the same time involved in less physical activity. Driving instead of walking, watching TV instead of playing outside, playing video games instead of participating in organized sport. Schlosser gives many examples of how this dilemma is quickly replicating itself mainly in other developed countries but is also starting to take hold in undeveloped countries as well.
Obviously the fundamental question is, what can or should be done to curtail the rampant growth of fast food. Everybody knows that it is unhealthy, but by reading this book you learn the details of all that goes into making that single burger. Some people could read this book unchanged, but for some it will change their entire diet. Although it is certain that you will not look at fast food in the same way. Eric Schlosser makes sure of this. There are so fairly gruesome parts of this book that will spoil your appetite, but this is all part of the technique Schlosser uses to show the dark side of fast food.





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