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“Fast Food Nation”
Fast food, a danger lurking around every corner, down every street and right down to our TV sets. That is how the author of the essay “Fast Food Nation”, Eric Schlosser sees it. He believes that the Congress should regulate the fast food industry's practices, advertisements and growth, because they are done only with one thing in mind, profits and more profits. The industry does not have any regard for its effect on people's health and its ultimate negative financial impact on the nation as a whole. One of the impacts the industry has visibly brought on the nation is, as the author points out, the average wages that have stayed low since 1992. The fast food industry has been growing at an everlasting speed. It is now “. . . America's largest private employer . . . [with] . . . roughly 3.5 million fast food workers . . .” (497). Most of these employees are sort of robot-skilled teenagers and some other members of the society who are unemployable elsewhere. They are paid minimum wages. All this has brought a change in our family life and social structure and behavior. Almost everybody in a family has to work to meet their needs. As a result there is little time left for ‘home-cooked' meal, and as a result of that people have to turn back to the fast food, and may I add, frozen foods and other snacks etc. Most of them are not healthy foods as well.
These foods are ‘engineered' in R&D laboratories. McDonald has a Burger University, where highly advanced ‘taste laboratories' design the different food with such a diligence for its extremely tempting look, flavor and taste as if they were creating life savings drugs. With the advancements in the cooking technology and addition of various chemical ingredients, the fast food, now-a-days, can be produced in huge quantities and be stored and transported nationally and internationally without the fear of its getting spoiled. As stated by the author it is shipped “. . . already frozen, canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried” (497). Hence, all of its nutritional value has been lost during the process and by the time it is re-heated in the restaurant kitchen, you are basically eating artificially flavoured but, tasty cardboard like stuff that does not contain much nutrients. These foods make you hungrier and as a result, we have become an obese nation.
With the fast food industry holding a giant piece of the employment pie in the private sector, they are bound to have a heavy influence on us, whether it is negative or positive. Although they provide an abundance of employment, they offer low-prestige, low-waged jobs that require very few skills; many high school teenagers find themselves working for them. Eric Schlosser explained that since the “. . . economic boom of the 1990s, when many American workers enjoyed their first pay raises, the real value of wages in the restaurant industry continued to fall” (497). The industry also offers very little chance of intra company advancement in relationship of its size. McDonald's, a company frequently referenced by Eric Schlosser, managed around a thousand restaurant in the late 60s and now “. . . has about twenty-eight thousand restaurants worldwide . . .” (495). Its size and nature of work has major impact on its suppliers all the way down to the employees.
Half of the success of many fast food companies is a result of their extensive and attractive advertisements. The other half lies with the uniformity and quality of their products distributed and sold worldwide. However, without the bombardment of their advertisements they would not be as successful or as popular as they are today. The author emphasized that McDonald's budget consists largely of the expenditure on advertisement. After a survey was conducted on American children, it illustrated just how effective the advertisements are and to whom they target mostly. The survey concluded that “. . . 96 percent [of American children] could identify Ronald McDonald” (496). This appalling statistic goes to show us how much of our present and future culture is and will be influenced by fast food companies. It gives us an insight on the amount of fast food consumption our generation and future generations would have and how obese our future will be.
The author has made his concerns clear that these companies are fueled by “the young” and that “the young” are fueled by them. Furthermore, that although the prices of fast food seem to very inexpensive, provided the convenience and all, they still make a huge profit selling them. Also, now that fast food consumption is the consider the norm, a part of culture that has also spread worldwide, many that consume it do not know and do not give it much thought of what they really are eating. He thus feels that Congress should regulate the fast food industry's practices, growth, and advertisements. However, he recognizes that although Congress should do all just that, they are not going to, or at least fast enough, because of the strong political hold the fast food industry has on them. He states the magnitude of the pressure put on Congress and that they “. . . spends millions of dollars every year on lobbying . . .” (501). He believes that the people themselves have the best chance of solving the problems. With the 3 to 300 million size advantage that the consumers hold, they can control the fast food industry in whatever direction they want. Such representative examples are the changes in franchise opportunity in which after being criticized of denying minorities the opportunity, McDonald's sought for minority who wished for company franchises. Also after setting new standards for meat product, McDonald's supplier strived to fulfill them by equipping themselves with appropriated machinery and equipment. All in all, the author is trying to relay the message that companies such as McDonald's are vulnerable to our protests and are willing to take swift actions, that being anything that would keep us coming back to them.
Eric Schlosser is known for writing on controversial topics and has gone into great detail to express his concerns about the fast food industry and has chosen numerous statistics and examples to align the readers into his vantage point of this issue. Throughout the reading he supported and proved each one of his claims about the industry. The author employed logos, ethos, and pathos very efficient and to the best of his advantage. He provided the figures on the effects of the industry's advertisement practices, represents him-self as having vast knowledge on these issues and hence makes the readers feel comfortable trusting him, and he has legitimate concerns that interests ordinary people. The author in my view has justified his call for Congress to regulate the fast food industry. Congress may have not listened yet, but as a result of general outcry of health concern of the fast food, especially in children, the result is that the City of New York banned the use of trans-fat in the restaurants in its limits. McDonald and some other companies like Wendy's, KFC and Wal-Mart etc. also announced to have stopped using oils containing trans-fat. Additionally, I wish the author had branched out into other food products that would have also supported his concerns. Snacks like Oreo cookies also have a negative impact on children's health and are also a contributing factor to their obesity. Hence I feel that the author could have gone a step further and put some light on the effects of unhealthy snacks and some of the TV dinners available so conveniently in grocery stores.