Monday 4 April 2011

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

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.


Naquillity said...

i'm not surprised with how much food plays a role in people getting sick. food and animals are handled badly now. you really have to know what's going into your mouth.

have a great day.

Kay said...

I saw Food Inc. and some other documentaries on the food business..shocking. An artist names Sue Coe takes on the industry from the livestock side. She supports the humane treatment of the animals we eat. Her art is shocking but has actually had an impact on the laws.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Life can become so depressing Juliet.
I do think the term fast food can be misinterpreted though - I do like to cook what I call is fast food which is good local produce cooked very quickly in stir fries to retain the goodness.

Anonymous said...

Very scary stuff. I would rather cook of us myself. We saw a movie very similar to this last year, that put me off fast food. I don't even buy prepared salad mixes.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Weaver - oh I'm a great believer in that kind of fast food too!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Kay - Sue Coe's work sounds interesting!

Naquillity = yes you're right

Sandy - me neither...

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

I haven't eaten fast food in over 7 years. It's sooooo nasty. I went to a movie the other night and the young boy beside me might have been 10 years old. Now I'm a very small person, but this boy was about 3 times my size and smelled horribly. He ate 4 large bags of popcorn and drank 3 giant sodas. I was sooooooo sad for him. His mom said nothing. I thought of it as child abuse.

JoMo said...

I've read this book. Shocking and enlightening book.

You're right about vegetarians like myself not being safe from e-coli. Canada has just had a warning about walnuts contaminated with e-coli. These hazards are everywhere, we really need to know what were eating.

Great info as usual, thanks :)

bunnits said...

I know this work. It is a real eye opener!

RG said...

Good subject - many sides/stories/opinions/facts!

The Mexico-USA border is impossible to seal and the opportunities here are just too great for the very poor of Mexico. Many of us wish for an equitable guest-worker program that could lead to full legal status.

Although fast food is mostly nasty and abused, I bet we all would be surprized at the relatively small fraction of people who are regular users! I think it is the salty, processed junk food in large bags at the grocery store along with the cheap sugar filled sodas that need attention from parents.

Our country has a thing about over-regulation and a large contingent adamant on personal/parental control over what gets eaten.

Also, the agricultural industry is HUGE and a major voting bloc so we get what we sow I guess!

Anonymous said...

Very depressing stuff but at least someone is writing about these important issues - thanks CGP