Fast Food Nation by Schlosser

What a great book. I planned on reading it this summer right after Andrea finished, but she had to talk about it as she read it, so I waited until I forgot a lot of what she said. I can’t as I read the book I needed to talk about it too.

Fast Food Nation is not only informative, but it is also entertaining. The book starts by explaining how a few relatively uneducated men succeeded with the help of timing, luck and oh right government handouts, and moves into present day, globalization and standardization and domination.

Eric Schlosser makes some pretty bold claims, which could land him in court like Oprah, if it weren’t for one little fact, “Though Fast Food Nation has been strongly attacked, thus far its critics have failed to cite any errors in the text.” (p. 276). Considering the incredible quotes below, there needs to be change in the industries Schlosser discusses.

Too often a book like this will tell you about everything that is wrong, but fails to offer solutions. Schlosser does offer suggestions, and they aren’t impossible either.

bq. The fast food industry pays the minimum wage to a higher proportion of its workers that any other American industry. Consequently, a low minimum wage has long been a crucial part of the fast food industry’s business plan. Between 1968 and 1990, the years when the fast food chains expanded at their fastest rate, the real value of the U.S. minimum wage fell be almost 40 percent. In the Late 1990s, the real value of the U.S. minimum wage still remained about 27 percent lower than it was in the late 1960s. nevertheless, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has vehemently opposed the rise in the minimum wage at the federal, state, or local level.” (p. 73)

bq. “One of the most widely used color additives – whose presence is often hidden by the phrase “color added” – violates a number of religious dietary restrictions, may cause allergic reactions in susceptible people, and comes from an unusual source. Cochineal extract (also known as carmine or carminic acid)_ is made from the desiccated bodies of female Dactlyopius coccus Costa, a small insect harvested mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands. the bug feeds on red cactus berries and color from the berries accumulated in the females and their unhatched larvae. the insects are collected, dried and ground into pigment. It takes about 700,000 of them to produce one pound of carmine, which is used to make processed foods look pink, red or purple. Dannon strawberry yogurt gets its color from carmine, as do many frozen fruit bars, fruit fillings and Ocean Spray pink-grapefruit juice drink.” (p. 129)

bq. “In the summer and fall of 1999, a ground beef plant in Dallas, Texas owned by Supreme Beef Processors failed a series of USDA tests for Salmonella. The tests showed that as much as 47 percent of the company’s ground beef contained Salmonella – a proportion five times higher than what the USDA allows. Every year in the United States food tainted with Salmonella causes about 1.4 million illnesses and 500 deaths. moreover, high levels of Salmonella in ground beef indicate high levels of fecal contamination. Despite the alarming test results, the USDA continued to purchase thousands of tons of meat from Supreme Beef for distribution in schools”

bq. “In Texas, the big meatpacking companies don’t have to manipulate the workers’ compensation system – they don’t even have to participate in it. Texas is the only state in the Union that allows companies to leave the workers’ comp system and set up its own process for dealing with workplace injuries. Taking advantage of that unique opportunity, IBP has established a remarkable system there. When a worker is injured at an IBP plant he or she is immediately presented with a waiver. Signing the waiver means forever surrendering the right to sue IBP on any grounds. Workers who sign the waiver may receive medical care under IBP’s Workplace Injury Settlement Program. Or they may not. once workers sign, IBP and its company-approved doctor have control over the job-related medical treatment. – for life. Under the program’s terms, seeking treatment from an independent physician can be grounds for losing all medical benefits.” (p.283)

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