Excerpt from Chew on This by Eric Schlosser, Charles W. Wilson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Chew on This

Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food

by Eric Schlosser, Charles W. Wilson

Chew on This
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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 270 pages
    Apr 2007, 320 pages

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The simple answer is this: the companies that sell fast food don’t want you to think about it. They don’t want you to know where it comes from and how it’s 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 what’s 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 haven’t. But you’ve 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 they’ve 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 meal—a hamburger, French fries, and soda—just 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 children’s 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— combined.

Fast food may look like the sort of food people have always eaten, but it’s different. It’s 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 thousand years.

In the pages that follow, you’ll learn how the fast-food business got started. You’ll 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 you’ll 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. That’s one of the main reasons people like to eat it. Fast food has been carefully designed to taste good. It’s 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 burger’s all gone and the wrapper’s 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.

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CHEW ON THIS: EVERYTHING YOU DON’T 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 rights reserved.

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