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Fast Food Nation

Updated on January 27, 2014

Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser's act of courage

Do you eat fast food? Do you like it? If the answer is 'yes', once you read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser you might change your mind. If the answer is 'no', you'll probably nod happily in agreement every second page.

This book has a serious potential to put anyone off fast food for life. It is full of tales to cause anything from uneasiness to outrage, and hopefully a change to our eating habits, too.

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What's Fast Food Nation all about?

Fast Food Nation follows the history of fast food industry from its humble beginnings almost a hundred years ago all the way to its contemporary world domination. It takes a closer look at the way in which burgers, pizzas and other junk food dishes are advertised (and yes, this is where the outraging stories start). It reveals what does it take to get a McJob and what would your life look like if you did.

Next chapter is all about the industry's success - how did the top restaurant chains become the power they are today? Other industries were influenced by the rise of fast food kingdoms too. Schlosser explores changes that have taken place in agriculture and meat processing (you will probably not like the transformation, I hasten to add). Speaking of meat - did you know that working in a meat processing plant is one of the most dangerous jobs in America? Fast Food Nation explains why. If your stomach turns easily, you might want to approach this chapter with care.

What about food safety? I reacted to Schosser's words by seriously considering switch to vegetarianism (but I do so love my pork chops...). He reassured me that in Europe food safety laws are far more strict than in the US - in the chapter about global development of fast food chains - but I'm still hesitating.

My edition was published in 2002, so I got a bonus chapter about Mad Cows disease. Just in case I still felt like grabbing a burger...

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Fast food - blessing or curse?

Fast food - blessing or curse?
Fast food - blessing or curse?

Some fast food statistics according to Eric Schlosser

Thought provoking quotations from Fast Food Nation

Did you know...

'The United States now has more prison inmates than full-time farmers' p.8

'The typical American child now spends about twenty-one hours a week watching television. [...] During the course of a year, he or she watches more than thirty thousand TV commercials' p.46

'Out of every $1.50 spent on a large order of fries at a fast food restaurant, perhaps 2 cents goes to the farmer who grew the potatoes' p. 117

'Meatpacking is now the most dangerous job in the United States. The injury rate in a slaughterhouse is about three times higher than the rate in a typical American factory. Every year more than one-quarter of the meatpacking workers in this country - roughly forty thousand men and women - suffer an injury or a work-related illness that requires medical attention beyond first aid' p. 172

'In the USDA study 78.6 percent of the ground beef contained microbes that are spread primarily by fecal material' p. 197

Note: the book was first published in 2001 so obviously that's what 'now' in the above quotes means.

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french fries fast food
french fries fast food

Eric Schlosser vs Fast Food Industry

I am quite simply impressed by Schlosser's courage. Writing a book like Fast Food Nation was guaranteed to rough some feathers and fast food giants are dangerous to mess with - as the McLibel case certifies (it is described in detail in the book but for a basic sketch you can always check wikipedia). As far as I'm aware, he was not sued for what he wrote. It's not that suprising once you notice that Fast Food Nation is accompanied by about one hundred pages of notes on sources. I might exaggerate if I say that almost every statement is documented, but not by much.

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Eric Schlosser interviewed about Fast Food Nation

Eric Schlosser talks about fast food industry's reaction to his book and about making Fast Food Nation the movie.

Fast food - is it good or bad for you? - What do you think about fast food?

I know there's a lot of middle ground to cover, but which extreme is closer to your heart?

Are you pro or contra?

french fries fast food
french fries fast food

Fa(s)t food nation

According to various sources, about 30% of Americans are obese. If you belong to any other nation, don't get too smug - your figure (pun intended) is likely to be just as bad.

Now, let's have a look at McDonald's own nutritional value data for a few standard menu items:

Big Mac - 550 calories

Large French fries - 500 calories

McCafe shake - 530-570 calories (depending on the taste)

Recommended Daily Allowance of calories, on average:

2500 kcal for men

2000 kcal for women

Less for children

Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

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More books by Eric Schlosser

I haven't read them, but after Fast Food Nation I cartainly will, given a chance.

Your thoughts on Fast Food Nation

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I ate fast food for a long time and liked it, but I recently cut down in a big way. I still want to go get it when I see a commercial cuz they make it look so damn good. I think I will continue to eat it once in a while but I'll never go back to eating it many times of week like I used to.

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I haven't eaten meat for over 25 years and try to avoid fast food...

    • Tiggered profile image

      Tiggered 5 years ago

      @JohnTannahill: I'm afraid it will take much more than a book to undo the damage. I also kind-of agree with you that banning fast food industry wholesale would not be wise - go further down this road and you'll end up in a censorland. But what else can be done?

      We would probably need a new book like Fast Food Nation every month or so for any effect to be seen and it would be difficult to keep mass audience interested enough to read them.

      Still, better one book than nothing. It stopped me from going for a fast food meal quite a few times so far, so there you have it - an effect.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      People still eat the stuff and the book's been around a while. I'm not sure it's had much effect really.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm too big a fan of fast food. I know. It is scary to think just how bad it is for us.