Gone are the days when cooking was considered as a productive chore. With the advent of the fast food industry, more and more people are paying much importance on ready made food due to its accessibility, low price, and quick preparations. This industry’s strong adaptability in the fast-paced movement of consumer lifestyles makes it much popular among many individuals. While myriads of people perceive the existence of fast food as the turning point in the advancement of quick meal solutions, the growing number of literature regarding the negative impacts of fast food has been considerably gaining attention. Investigative journalist Eic Schlosser’s book entitled “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal” strongly provides arguments addressing the negative effects of fast food on American diet, economy, and popular culture . Not only did Schlosser critique the existence of fast food, but he also provided an accurate representation of the realistic negative changes created by this industry, with the support of vast accurate sources and two years of world travel to research about this controversial issue.
In the economic perspective, it may be true that the fast food created millions of jobs that benefited even the most disadvantaged member of the American society. As Schlosser pointed, out of every eight workers in the United States, one person may have, at some point, worked in a fast food. However, it should also be taken into consideration that this industry’s labor practices are not altruistic in nature as it adheres to laissez fare, allowing its operators to set their own wage standards. While the federal Fair Labor Standard Act imposes the payment of overtime fees for additional working hours, such is not always the case in the fast food industry. Only a limited number of fast food workers are qualified to work overtime, and few of these qualified individuals get to be paid for their extra work. As crew members constitute most of the fast food workers, they are only paid by the hour, scheduled to work as often as needed, and sent home during slow season, thereby suggesting that only few of the said workers are paid accordingly. Nonetheless, the purchasing power of fast food chains also drastically changed the meatpacking industry — from a once considered highly skilled and high paying occupation to the most dangerous job in United States. Companies such as Iowa Beef Packers, ConAgra Red Meat, and Tyson Foods endanger the lives of their workers, most of whom are uneducated and untrained, making them susceptible to injuries to the extent that they go unrecorded and uncompensated (Schlosser 8a).
Fast Food industry is also the very same reason why many independent businesses have faced foreclosures. Such perspective, which was only once feared by farm activitist Jim Hightower in 1970’s, has already become a reality according to Schlosser. Large fast food companies are now monopolizing consumers, workers, and small businesses. Currently, large restaurant chains have become the dominant force over the food supply of many nations, “wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code” (Schlosser 4-5).
Not only does the fast food industry have an adverse impact in the economic standpoint; Schlosser was also able to present its negative effect in many societal aspects. One of the major evidences to prove such point is the directive advertising of fast food companies aimed at young children not only to increase current but also future consumption. Because of the belief that increased exposure of children at a very young age with advertisements could develop brand loyalty, many fast food companies direct their advertisements towards the said group. Hence, as one marketer pointed out, there is a straight forward aim integrated within children’s advertising: “get kids to nag their parents and nag them well” (Schlosser 43). In a greater sense, it can be easily assumed that the fast food industry, through their usage of direct advertising toward children, invokes juvenile nagging, which in the long run could affect the development of children’s behavior. More so, as children could not easily comprehend the real purpose of of commercials, and they are not protected against these advertisements, it is inculcated in their minds that what they are seeing is true, which could be a translation of exploitation of their immaturity (Schlosser 46).
Based on observation, another notable sociological impact of fast food is evident in the way the traditional family setting is actuated. The changing lifestyle of many individuals prohibits them to have time to prepare meals for their family, and what better way to give solution to such issue — the quick meals offered in fast food outlets. On a positive light, these quick meals come in cheaper prices, are more convenient and most importantly can satiate hunger. However, because of the continuous recognition of individuals with the fast food industry, the traditional process of cooking,, eating and sharing is also slowly fading, thereby affecting some of the family values that can be attained within the simple get-together of the families over the dining table.
It may be true that fast food is cheap and quick, can satiate hunger, and can satisfy the many aesthetic aspects of life, but these perspectives do not always guarantee good health. Fast Food Nation was able to present the realities behind the superficially enhanced fast foods and the industry’s role in changing individuals’ eating habit with the neglect of important nutritional regimes. Fast food has also aided in the spread of bacteria that have caused various diseases. Although Schlosser did not definitely establish the relationship between consumption of fast food and obesity, he was able to contend that “it seems wherever America’s fast food chains go, waistlines inevitably start expanding” (Schlosser 242).
From the given facts, it is apparent that fast food is a global phenomenon that carries with it myriads of negative effects. It has infiltrated many aspects of a culture to the extent that it already transforms deeply embedded values. While it may be true that fast food somehow represents economic vitality, people should not overlook the fact that this industry is also an embodiment of the worst form of capitalism that directly attack the rights of workers, family values, human health, and children’s future views on things in order to gain continuous consumption. The issue of fast food and its effects on society are brought to the forefront by Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. His arguments supported by research and accurate body of literature not only present the negative effects of fast food but also serve as an eye opener for the actions to be done to an issue that should have been addressed a long time ago.
Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001.