Fast Food Nation was first published in 2001 and republished in 2007 but is still relevant today. The book outlines the effect that the fast food industry has had on the USA, from helping to drive suburban sprawl to damaging the nation's (and the world's) health. The book concentrates on the USA, but many of the issues are true to some extent in other countries too, as globalisation means that fast food is sweeping the world. .
It is shocking to read about the lax standards of meat safety and animal welfare that permeates the agricultural industry in the USA. Even when E coli outbreaks cause severe illness and even death, contaminated meat is sometimes recalled only slowly, resulting in more illness. Vegetarians aren't immune either as E coli can spread through salads that are washed in contaminated water. .
One of the most sobering sections of the book is the one that looks at conditions for workers in fast food restaurants and the meat processing industry in the USA. The workforce is non-unionised, many of them are illegal immigrants. There is a shocking rate of injury (and death) in the workplace for workers in the meat packing industry and its not much better for fast food restaurant employees.
The book does end on a hopeful note, looking at farmers who practice more sustainable agriculture and small, family owned restaurants who are making a successful business despite all the competition from the multinational fast food outlets. Tomorrow I'll post about ethical food options in Edinburgh.
Many of the same issues are covered in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle, which documents her family's attempt to eat only local, humanely-produced food for a year. You can read my review of that book here. .
The film Food Inc is based on the same research as Fast Food Nation, you can read my review of the film here. .
Crossing with the Virgin is a sobering book about what happens to some of the illegal immigrants into the USA who aren't 'lucky' enough to get far enough to be able to take one of the low paid jobs in a fast food restaurant or a meat processing plant. You can read my review here.