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How the Fast Food Industry Has Changed the Environment and the Health of American Society?


More and more Americans eat fast food and since it is relatively inexpensive, tastes good and can be ordered and consumed quickly, fast food has become the national diet. However, prolonged consumption of fast foods is known to cause severe obesity and related health problems such as respiratory diseases, coronary problems, diabetes and other diseases. What is worse is that children have become victims of the unhealthy trend and childhood obesity and childhood diabetes have increased dramatically. This fact was demonstrated by Morgan Spurlock in his documentary film ‘Super Size Me’, released in 2004. The author recorded his experience by eating only fast food for 30 days and ate super sized meals three times a day. After one month, Spurlock gained twenty-four pounds and the body mass increased by 13%. It took him 14 months of strenuous exercise to come back to his original weight (Spurlock, 2003). Research by scientists suggests that fast food is addictive as hard drugs since the brain is conditioned to receive its dose of sugar and fat and over a period of time, the addiction is very hard to leave (Laurence, 2003).


Schlosser (p. 3:9) speaks of the widespread infiltration of fast foods in USA. The industry in 2001 was worth about 110 billion USD. The fad of eating Fast Food also called, as Junk Food has almost become an epidemic. What seems very alluring is that for a few dollars, people could eat their fill with apparently tasty food and no one was bothered about the harm it caused. Over the years, small businesses went out of business and were replaced by franchises of companies such as McDonald’s, Taco Bells, Dominos, Starbucks and many others. The fast food industries have a huge requirement for potatoes, vegetables, beef, chicken and other food raw materials and the traditional farmer it seems was not able to meet the insatiable demand. Large corporate organizations bought a number of farms, used genetically modified plants and animals to produce the maximum at the least cost. This has changed the agricultural landscape of America. To provide for the huge amount of meat required, meat-processing practices were even worse. Sick and diseased animals, infected with E-Coli were slaughtered in unhygienic abattoirs. Often illegal immigrants processed the meat and the meat products were contaminated with harmful pathogens. Items such as hamburgers with E-Coli can cause lifelong health problems, similar to what HIV and AIDS patients’ experience. Some have experienced severe diarrhea, urinated blood, the brain got liquefied, and the patient who survived was often crippled for life. Children are the worst victims, since their bodies do not have much resistance. While such infections can be caused by any uncooked and contaminated meat, and not necessarily from hamburgers, all reported cases of pathogen poisoning occurred due to consumption of fast foods. To meet the urgent demand for meat, slaughterhouses often ignore safe methods, process worn out dairy cows for ground beef and that is one of the reasons why fast foods are to be blamed. When government tried to intervene and implement strict regulations, the powerful meat and fast food companies lobbied to block all attempts to use microbial testing of the federal meat inspection program.

Schlosser (p. 122-123) has also reported on the secret and insidious manner in which the mouth-watering flavor is created by using advanced chemical engineering. Chemicals of the required flavor such as almonds, apricots, roast beef and any other cooking smell can be manufactured in chemical laboratories. Minute amounts of the chemicals are mixed with the food material and the final, ready to eat product gives out the required mouth watering smell. The scary part is that these chemical flavors are extracted from items such as sawdust for ‘natural smoke flavor’, cochineal extract that is made by crushing small bugs to give foods a pink color, to name a few. Such additives can cause severe allergies to people besides vegetarians may find it offensive when they find that ground beef is used to create a vegetable flavor.

Schlosser (p. 242-245) shows how obesity has increased over the years. The US has the highest rate for obesity when compared to other developed nations and more than 50% of adults and 25% of children in USA are obese. Most of the cases of obesity can be directly linked to heavy consumption of fast foods that have very high amount of calories and cholesterol. While it is true that sedentary lifestyle has increased, the easy access to fat forming fast foods has accelerated obesity. Children are specially targeted by using children’s advertisements, forming alliances with toymakers to supply toys along with food, sponsoring sports events and so on. As a result, children drink about 12 ounces of soda daily on average. Such drinks have replaced traditional drinks such as milk, while burgers have replaced cereals and cornflakes. Many schools have fast food franchises, this has led children to skip nutritional breakfast and switch to fast food.

It is obvious that fast food companies have become more and more reckless and have long ago abandoned any conscience. It is only profits that they are interested in, they are not bothered if traditional agricultural farms, and practices are uprooted or if the health of children and adults is sacrificed at the altar of money. These companies have played on the basic requirement of humans, food and this is a crime that millions of Americans have fallen a victim to. Everyone wants to save money and eat proper food and people are hard pressed for time. Fast food companies have played on this inherent physiological need to build their empire on the bodies of hapless Americans who were forced to visit such outlets since traditional breakfast and food places were forced out of business. So it was either a question of starve or eat fast food and fast food companies have exploited this need and so we have everyone from school children, truck drivers, college students, office workers and other people becoming daily victims.

With conscience gone and only greed acting as the business motive, it would be naïve to expect these companies to change their methods. When people become obese, productivity falls and there are increased healthcare costs, that the already overburdened health care system cannot bear anymore. Young adults die of coronary attacks and suffer from respiratory problems and productive lives are cut short. What is heart rending is the sight of diabetic obese children waiting at hospitals for their insulin shots to pay for their innocent sins of becoming fast food junkies.


How many more children have to die before the megalomaniac fast food companies remove their eyes from their hoard of dollars and ask themselves about the evil they have unleashed. Perhaps never!


Rosenwasser, David and Stephen, Jill. Writing Analytically, 3rd Edition. Wadsworth Publishing. 2003.

Laurence Jeremy. 2003. Fast food is addictive in same way as drugs, say scientists. Web.

Spurlock Morgan. 2003. Super Size Me: IMDb. Web.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation, The dark side of the all American meal. NY: Harper Perennial Publications. 2001.


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