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What is meant by fast food? Longman Dictionary (1987) defines fast food as hamburgers and cooked chicken that is quickly and easily prepared, and sold by a restaurant to be eaten at once or take away. Hamburgers, pizzas, sandwiches, French fries, sushi, and waffles are all examples of fast food. Fast food has existed since long ago and it took a century to find out that fast food is unhealthy. However, its popularity and well-entrenched status in urban areas has to be credited to famous fast food chains such as McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King and Pizza Hut. These fast food giants were established a hundred years ago. According to The Star Online, the world is dominated by the fast food industry where the biggest fast food giant McDonald's garners a staggering US$4.55 billion in annual sale. This has proven that the demand for fast food had increased rapidly due to the effectiveness of advertisement promotional activity by the fast food manufacturer (Richards T. J. & Padilla. L, 2007). Despite the ever increasing appetite for the mouth watering selection of burgers and fries food, there still exist several controversies regarding fast food.
Although many people say that fast food is cheap, tasty, and convenient, there is much growing concern about its negative effects when people consume too much fast food and too frequently. Therefore, the aim of this research paper is to reveal, first and foremost, the risks of over consumption of fast food and second, the dishonesty and irresponsibility of fast food companies towards their consumers and the environment.
It is usual practice to add fat and sodium to make food tastier. This is no exception in the case of fast food. Fast food contains more saturated fats and salts than other food. This easily causes obesity especially in children and people who lead sedentary lifestyles. David Ludwig, a paediatric endocrinologist, claims that the increasing obesity in United States of America is due to the proliferate consumption of fast food (Harvard Public Health NOW, 2003). This rapid rise in obesity poses a question mark to many doctors and experts who are worried about obesity. Currently smoking is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the country as it claims as many as 0.4 million lives each year. Soon, obesity is expected to take over its place as people nowadays consume lots of fast food high in fats, sugar, and salt but tend not to exercise (Segelken, R. 2005). Nevertheless, the chances of convincing people to stop consuming fast food remain futile.
Obese people tend to have a higher chance of having diabetes as obesity and diabetes are closely interrelated; the reason being fast food contains large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar. These two components increase the risk of diabetes. As a result, insulin resistance will happen whereby the body will produce lesser insulin which in turn lowers the sugar level of the blood and affects the digestion of food in our body (VoaNews.com, 2005). Another major problem is that people who consume fast food more than two times a week will have doubled the increase in insulin resistance and for people who consume fast food once a week will be found to have diabetes in the next 15-years (UM News, 2005). Thus, it is proven that fast food destroys human health. In addition, there are the consequences of diabetes which will most likely bring about other illnesses.
Apart from diabetes, consumers should be concerned enough to find out about the number of calories and the cholesterol level that is present in fast food to avoid chronic diseases. There might be an overload of calories in a single meal to fulfil a person's calorie requirement per day. Chronic diseases include heart disease, stroke, cancer and severe respiratory diseases. Those people who have a high consumption of fast food, the high content level of fat, calories and sodium could cause a blockage of the artery and this in turn will increase the chance of heart disease (Fast Food Nation, 2010). According to Peter, K (2010), consuming fried food can cause an increase of bad cholesterol and a decrease of good cholesterol that will ultimately endanger the heart and encourages cancer to occur. Unfortunately, fried food despite its reputation as an unhealthy food due to its high fat, cholesterol and calories content still reigns as today's teenagers' number one favourite food.
Why is fast food delicious? The answer lies in the additives that are added. Many studies state that fast food contains additives which endanger our health. These additives consist of preservatives needed to extend the life of the food, colourings added to enhance its colour and to make it look fresh as well as flavourings which enhance the taste of the fast food. According to Hickman, M (2008), Consumer Affairs Correspondent, McDonald's has not only failed to reduce addictives in their food but instead has increase the addictives compared to the past few years when in actual fact they shouldn't rely on chemicals to make fast food taste good. Basically, fast food giants are trying to make maximum profits by adding those hazardous additives to boost the taste of their burgers and fried food. The phosphorus addictives present in fast food are harmful to kidney disease patients where it can even bring fatality to them (DeAngelis, C. 2009). However, fast food companies do not reveal the amount and types of additives that they have added into the food. On the other hand, they still claim in their webpage that their food is both healthy and of quality.
Another reason that fast food is not safe for consumption is because of its chemical contents. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the non-profit health organization sued the nationwide fast food companies because there were chemicals known as carcinogens which can cause cancer for more than a decade present in every sample of grilled meat that was taken from each fast food restaurant (Kage, Ben. 2006). Consequently, those selfish companies which only market the products with profitability in mind are causing an increase in patients with cancer. Furthermore, ammonia, a chemical which is normally present in window cleaning products is injected into the beef used in making burgers as it can kill the bacteria, e.coli. However it does not kill pathogen and is assumed to be safe by US government (Adams, M. 2010). That is the reason why fast food is always tasty and has a long shelf life but the truth is that there are dangerous substances in the burger itself.
The irresponsible attitude and actions of greedy fast food companies have been revealed when they produce misleading advertisements that use the young as models to tempt children to consume fast food frequently. Their misleading fast food television advertisements are usually shown during the children's programmes. This has become a controversial issue among the public especially parents. Romanian Socialist MEP, Daciana Octavia SârbuÂ claims that fast food advertisements are targeting children by tempting them to consume those products through gifts of free toys as they are still too naÃ¯ve to make rational decisions with regard to health risk in the choice of their food (WFA, 2010). Such advertisement ploys targeting children will cause the ever increasing obesity, diabetes and other diseases among children who consume fast food regularly. A study on the relationship between fast food advertising and obesity among children has shown a direct positive link between the two (Chou. S.Y, 2006).
The next controversial misleading advertisement would be the empty promises made by the fast food companies. Although there are pledges that they will reduce fats and sugar to produce more healthy food as well as reduce their advertisement especially to children, the question is; do they really fulfil their claims? In actual fact, their pledges have not been fulfilled in any evident manner and they are just continuing to make empty promises. There is no way that they can reduce the amount of fats, salts and sugar in their products as they are depending on these very materials to make their food tasty and obtain high profits (Monteiro et al, 2010). Hence, fast food advertisements are now not only questionable but also unreliable.
Another unethical practice by giant fast food chains is the dubious nutritional information about fast food which intentionally misleads consumers into believing that their fast food is healthy. A consumer, Ashley Pelman, on behalf of all the citizens of New York State, has initiated action to charge McDonald's of creating inaccurate nutritional label to the public through their promotions and advertisements even though they know that the meals are associated with dangerous diseases (FindLaw, 2003). Further evidence with regard to the disclosure of the immorality of fast food restaurants is that Federal Trade Commission has forbidden one of the fast food companies, Kentucky Fried Chicken national restaurant chain from making false claims about its "healthy" fried chicken that can help its eaters to lose weight as it has mislead the consumers (Federal Trade Commission, 2004). These circumstances have brought us closer to the true evil side of the fast food restaurants that are not prioritizing the importance of consumers' health.