Book Review: "Fast Food Nation" (NY Times) : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Excerpts from a NY Times review of the book "Fast Food Nation," hopefully of interest to readers of this board for several reasons (including the "just in time" aspects of the modern economy, including all aspects of the food business):

Headline: 'Fast Food Nation': Hold the Pickles, Hold the Lettuce [fair use excerpts]

Source: New York Times, 30 Jan 2001


FAST FOOD NATION: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. By Eric Schlosser. Illustrated. 356 pp. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $25.

Eric Schlosser's compelling new book, "Fast Food Nation," will not only make you think twice before eating your next hamburger, but it will also make you think about the fallout that the fast food industry has had on America's social and cultural landscape: how it has affected everything from ranching and farming to diets and health, from marketing and labor practices to larger economic trends.

As the subtitle of his book, "The Dark Side of the All-American Meal," clearly indicates, Mr. Schlosser is not sanguine about the consequences of the fast food business. He argues that "the centralized purchasing decisions of the large restaurant chains and their demand for standardized products have given a handful of corporations an unprecedented degree of power over the nation's food supply," and that as "the basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today's retail economy," small businesses have been marginalized and regional differences smoothed over. A deadening homogenization, he writes, has been injected into the country and increasingly the world at large...

...The resulting not a dispassionate examination of the subject but a fierce indictment of the fast food industry. Mr. Schlosser contends that "the profits of the fast food chains have been made possible by losses imposed on the rest of society," including a rising obesity rate and an increase in foodborne illnesses (most notably, those caused by the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, whose spread has been facilitated by the growing centralization of the meat production process)...

..."Fast Food Nation" provides the reader with a vivid sense of how fast food has permeated contemporary life and a fascinating (and sometimes grisly) account of the process whereby cattle and potatoes are transformed into the burgers and fries served up by local fast food franchises. It's an account that includes an unnerving description of the dangerous, injury-filled work performed in slaughterhouses, where job assignments have names like "first legger, knuckle dropper, navel boner" and an equally absorbing description of how the New Jersey-based "flavor industry" tries to make processed frozen food palatable by manipulating taste, aroma and "mouthfeel."

What is perhaps most astonishing about America's fast food business is just how successful it has been: what began in the 1940's as a handful of hot dog and hamburger stands in Southern California has spread, like kudzu, across the land to become a $110 billion industry. According to Mr. Schlosser, Americans now spend more on fast food than they spend on higher education, personal computers, computer software or new cars, or on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos and recorded music combined...

..."An estimated one of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonald's," he adds, and "the company annually hires about one million people, more than any other American organization, public or private."

As fast food franchises from McDonald's to Pizza Hut to Kentucky Fried Chicken go global, this dynamic has assumed an international flavor. In Brazil, Mr. Schlosser reports, McDonald's has already become the nation's largest private employer. Classes at McDonald's Hamburger University in Oak Park, Ill., are now taught in 20 different languages, and a Chinese anthropologist notes that all the children at a primary school in Beijing recognized an image of Ronald McDonald. For the Chinese, the anthropologist noted, McDonald's represents "Americana and the promise of modernization."

-- Andre Weltman (, January 30, 2001


This is an excellent ground breaking book that really gets to the bottom of things. We are what we eat. Many of our problems could be solved, if we became a healthy society. To learn more about the impact of diet on health, go to Michio Kushi,founder of the Kushi Institute and pioneer of macrobiotics in the U.S., was recently honored by the 106th Congress and Smithsonian Institute for his work in the natural foods movement and alternative health. The Kushi Institute is a National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine grant awardee. The relationship between diet, health and society is the most fascinating study I have come across and actually provides real answers to the problems we face. Thank you for posting this information.

-- Jeanette Thomas (, February 01, 2001.

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