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Santa Claus is the only make-believe character that is more readily recognized by school children than Ronald McDonald, according to Erich Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. But fast food in America is not just for kids. We are an obese nation, and most of us spend more time than we’d like to admit, eating fast food. It has become a way of life for those who rush from one activity to another, with no time to grocery shop or cook. Most of our fast food decisions are not even planned. As the television ad says, “Life comes at you fast”, and we don’t spend a lot of time on meal planning. And why should we, when there’s plenty of fast food available on every street corner? It’s at the sports stadium, the carnival, Kmart, the shopping mall, concerts, the circus, the movies, the beach…well, you get the picture.

The Survey of Consumer Expenditures for 2006 reports that the average family in the United States spent almost half of its food budget on meals away from home. (No doubt the majority of that was spent on fast food.) The family-owned restaurant is becoming a faint memory, while fast food chain restaurants are springing up all over the cities and interstates.

Perhaps you’re wondering what’s so bad about a fast food strawberry milkshake now and then? Milk is good for you, isn’t it? And fresh strawberries are certainly healthy. That may be true, but in most fast food shakes you’ll find little milk and no strawberries. But what you will find, according to British research, is 59 ingredients, and 40 of them are chemicals. Let me name a few–amyl butyrate, ethyl heptanoate, methyl anthranilate, and 4-methylacetophenone. Tasty sounding, aren’t they? Nowhere will you find an actual strawberry. The whole “shake” (notice the absence of the word “milk” on the menu board) is made with artificial flavorings. But if you take a whiff, you’d swear you smell strawberries.

I nearly fainted when I read an ingredient list of a fast food “Happy Meal” that contained chicken nuggets, fries and a High-C drink. The list of additives was half a page long! Some of the chemical additives in fast food have been linked to tumors, cancer, and other health risks. (For a complete list of the ingredients see my link: Eco Child’s Play.)

Well, what about a fast food burger? Those shouldn’t be so bad. Wrong again. Apparently they’re not even made from the beef of one cow these days, according to Quality Health News. The USDA says that the typical fast food hamburger may contain hundreds of strips of beef from different cattle! I shudder to think how far the contaminated meat (of a cow with mad cow or any disease) could travel. Apparently, this is even true with the ground beef we now buy in the grocery store. Most of us remember the Jack in the Box fast food catastrophe in 1993, when four children died, and 750 were sickened, from a deadly strain of E. Coli bacteria. Even though a new meat inspection system is in place, because of that tragedy, consumers are still vulnerable to serious fast food risks.

And if that’s not bad enough, the buns have dangerous additives, and so much of the fast food is fried, and is heavy on the fat, salt, and sugar. According to Erich Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), there used to be local slaughter houses all throughout the U. S., but today just 13 massive slaughter houses supply most of our country’s fast food hamburger meat. So you can see why an outbreak could spread quickly across the nation.

Fast food has also been found to be psychologically and even physically addictive, because of its high fat and high sugar content. (Please see my earlier article on Food Addiction: Five Foods That Cause Physical and Emotional Dependencies.)

According to Quality Health News 2008, potassium bromate, a dough conditioner and bleaching agent that has been banned in many countries, is still being allowed in the United States and Japan. The International Agency for Research on Cancer labeled it a Category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans). And yet, it is still currently used in the fast food buns served at Burger King, Arby’s and Wendy’s, as reported by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

I could certainly go on and on, but it might be dinnertime where you are, and I already feel sick after researching this article. I guess the next question they’ll be asking at the fast food drive-thru will be, “Do you want E. Coli and chemical poisons with that? And would you like to Supersize it?”

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One Comment

  1. I love your article – focusing on the garbage in the food. My daughter had similar thoughts about the silly toys they include with the meal – that just become landfill. She had some great ideas for alternatives that are posted here: Fast food can’t be helping our country.

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