Americans are known for having busy lives and are attracted to anything that will make basic necessities more convenient, “imagine -- No Carhops --No Waitresses -- No Dishwashers -- No Bus Boys -- The McDonald’s System is Self-Service” (Schlosser 20). For the typical middle class family, it is an inconvenience to come home from a long day of work and still have to prepare a meal. Americans consider “a bag of French fries, a plain burger and a 12-ounce Coke” (Brownlee 5) as convenient and inexpensive. The fast food industry has become part of the current American culture. According to Eric Schlosser “fast food is now so commonplace that it has acquired an air of inevitability, as though it were somehow unavoidable, a fact of modern life” (7). Schlosser’s novel Fast Food Nation explains how the fast food industry has become part of our everyday lives.
In the current age when technology is dominant and advertising products are the public's desire, we as Americans are easily drawn to the different methods fast food chains use to catch our attention. Through catchy jingles and luring signs, children “are easy targets for unscrupulous advertisers” (Wong). Marketing is a main factor in how fast food is introduced to the population. While driving down any highway, it comes as no surprise that one will encounter the golden arches that can be distinguished by just about any person, consumer or not. Today you can, “drive down any thoroughfare in America, and I guarantee you’ll see one of our country’s more than 13,000 McDonald’s restaurants. Now, drive back up the block and try to find someplace to buy a grapefruit” (Zinczenko 6). McDonald's main target for consumers are adolescents and the young, by involving certain games, toys, and television shows with their products. By luring in children, it forces parents to tend to their child's desires to ensure that “quiets a restless child so a weary parent can get some rest of his own” (Weintraub 13). Parents tend to give into the constant nagging by their children for sugary, calorie infested but, “the real problem is that parents don’t want to take responsibility for their children[health]” (Gonzalez). Parents lack the interest to care about what their children eat until it’s obvious that their children are overweight. Everyday parents let their children watch television where “product tie-ins are everywhere. There are Spongebob SquarePants Popsicles, Oreo Cookie preschool counting books and Keebler’s Scooby Doo Cookies. There is even a Play-Doh Lunchables play set” (Barboza 6). Marketing alliances with enticing brand names, visually appealing commercials, and big corporations draw in a big audience. McDonald’s argue that it is not their fault that we “crossed under the golden arches” (Zinczenko 4) and convinced to buy their food because, it is our own responsibility to determine what is healthy for us and what is not.
The low cost of fast food have increased in portion size over the years, with Wendy’s Triple Decker and McDonald’s Big Mac are some of examples of how the increase in size and revision to the names of the burgers can attract customers. Not only have burgers increased in size, but soft drink sizes have quadrupled over the years as well. “During the late 1950s the typical soft drink order at a fast food restaurant contained about eight ounces of soda; today a "Child" order of Coke at McDonald's is twelve ounces” (Schlosser 239). The supersize option can be added to any meal at McDonalds for under $2.00, so why wouldn’t someone say yes to, “Would you like to supersize that?”
At the rate that we receive our food from fast food restaurants, there must be a special technique in how our order is prepared. Those "perfectly" salted fries, smoked "charbroiled burger" patties, and creamy milkshakes aren’t always what they seem. Today, “the passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of prepared or fast food, confronts a platter covered with inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived” (Berry 8). These food chains have gone to the extent of attempting to deceive our minds into believing we are consuming other than the realities of the food we are presented. Our minds are tricked to thinking food is consumable when the food looks enticing; “bright colored foods frequently seem to taste better than bland-looking food…” (Schlosser 125). So why should the workers at Mcdonald’s really care about what they put into those crisp golden fries? The answer is, they don’t care. Artificial flavoring is a tactic fast food chains use to make their product so addicting. Chemists can come up with any flavor needed. The average strawberry milkshake at Burger King doesn't just include milk and strawberries, but over 40 different chemicals that taste similar to strawberries. Popular fast foods like, “Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich, for example, contains beef extracts. Burger King’s BK Broiler Chicken Breast Patty contains 'natural smoke flavor.' …Red Arrow manufactures naturally smoke flavor by charring sawdust and capturing the aroma chemicals released into the air” (Schlosser 128). This process has become so advanced that taste tests aren't necessary anymore. Simply smelling an aroma from a little glass bottle can persuade your mind to think a whole meal is right in front of you.
Since the flavoring isn’t real, some questions in most heads arise about the quality of the product americans are consuming. There have been countless issues concerning whether the meat used in our "delectable" hamburgers are "real" or not. Of course they are real and more than likely contain meat, but what is unknown know is that there are other items mixed in as well. Meat contamination is a serious problem in fast food. Low budgets omit companies find the cheapest way to get the food that they use. We “No longer know or imagine the connection between eating and the land” (Berry 6). There have been reports of abdominal pains and vomiting after eating meat from more than one restaurant. In the early years, hamburgers were considered as “food for the poor”. This practice was equivalent to eating meat from the trash. Meat products that fast food chains serve aren’t completely supervised to make sure the food is safe, and is what the advertisements say it is. In some ways this can be true with how some presidents “cut spending on public health measures and staffed the U.S Department of Agriculture with officials far more interested in government deregulation than in food safety” (Schlosser 206). This resulted with “patties[beef] contaminated with E. coli O157:H7,” an illness “killing off the pathogen and prompting a sudden release of its Shiga toxins” (Schlosser 211;200). With the obsolete meat inspection program, “in the USDA study 78.6 percent of the ground beef contained microbes that are spread primarily by fecal matter... a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill: There is shit in the meat” (Schlosser 197). This is why there have been countless reports of diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset. The lack of attention as to what the cattle that are used for consumption are being fed, the poor sanitation of the slaughterhouses, and poorly trained workers have resulted in relatively inedible meat.
Even with contaminated meats, Americans continue to consume fast food meals and obesity now is common, and the fast food industry is partly to blame. Sadly “the United States now has the highest obesity rate of any industrialized nation in the world… The rate of obesity among American adults is twice as high today as it was in the early 1960s” (Schlosser 240). The number of deaths as a result of obesity is nearly as many as those who are killed as a result of the use of cigarettes. As more people eat fast food, the more calories, less fiber, and more fat is consumed. This industry mainly targets children, causing many reports and complaints that fast food is causing children today to be obese and suffer from diabetes.
Overall, fast food is never the “better” option when it comes to consumption. We order fast food and “eat it as fast as we can in as many ways as we can--turning the fat of the land into, well, fat” (Pollan) . Collectively as Americans, we need to be less vulnerable to the ads with catchy slogans and the enticing commercials presenting new burgers and milkshakes. “Fast food is just like other hazards in life such as alcohol and cars. It’s OK in moderation and it’s dangerous when taken to extremes. And everybody, including kids, known this even without a warning label to tell them” (LaVerne). Americans shouldn’t blame the industry when it is their job to lure in consumers but blame it on us, for it is our choice to “eat a lot, do nothing, and get fat” (Jordan).