The simple answer is this: the companies that sell fast food dont
want you to think about it. They dont want you to know where it comes from
and how its made. They just want you to buy it.
Have you ever seen a fast-food ad that shows the factories where
French fries are made? Ever seen a fast-food ad that shows the
slaughterhouses where cattle are turned into ground beef? Ever seen an ad
that tells you whats really in your fast-food milk shake and why some
strange-sounding chemicals make it taste so good? Ever seen an ad that
shows overweight, unhealthy kids stuffing their faces with greasy fries at a
fast-food restaurant? You probably havent. But youve probably seen a lot of
fast-food commercials that show thin, happy children having a lot of fun.
People have been eating since the beginning of time. But theyve
only been eating Chicken McNuggets since 1983. Fast food is a recent
invention. During the past thirty years, fast food has spread from the United
States to every corner of the globe. A business that began with a handful of
little hot dog and hamburger stands in southern California now sells the all-
American meala hamburger, French fries, and sodajust about
everywhere. Fast food is now sold at restaurants and drive-throughs, at
baseball stadiums, high schools, elementary schools, and universities, on
cruise ships, trains, and airplanes, at Kmarts, Wal-Marts, and even the
cafeterias of childrens hospitals. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion
on fast food. In 2005, they spent about $134 billion on fast food. Americans
now spend more money on fast food than on college education, personal
computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food
than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, and recorded music
Fast food may look like the sort of food people have always eaten,
but its different. Its not the kind of food you can make in your kitchen from
scratch. Fast food is something radically new. Indeed, the food we eat has
changed more during the past thirty years than during the previous thirty
In the pages that follow, youll learn how the fast-food business
got started. Youll learn how the fast-food chains try to get kids into their
restaurants, how they treat kids working in their kitchens, how they make
their food. And youll learn what can happen when you eat too much of it.
These are things you really need to know. Why? Because fast food is heavily
advertised to kids and often prepared by workers who are kids themselves.
This is an industry that both feeds and feeds off the young.
For the most part, fast food tastes pretty good. Thats one of the
main reasons people like to eat it. Fast food has been carefully designed to
taste good. Its also inexpensive and convenient. But the Happy Meals, two-
for-one deals, and free refills of soda give a false sense of how much fast food
actually costs. The real price never appears on the menu.
Hundreds of millions of people eat fast food every day without
giving it much thought. They just unwrap their hamburgers and dig in. An hour
or so later, when the burgers all gone and the wrappers been tossed into the
garbage, the whole meal has already been forgotten. Chew on this: people
should know what lies beneath the shiny, happy surface of every fast-food
restaurant. They should know what really lurks between those sesame seed
buns. As the old saying goes: you are what you eat.
CHEW ON THIS: EVERYTHING YOU DONT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT
FAST FOOD by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. Copyright (c) 2006 by
Eric Schlosser. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All
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