Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, is the best non-fiction book I’ve read in years. I’d heard many raves about it and I procrastinated on reading it because I knew it would turn me off of my usual diet of eating at fast=food chains several times a week.
And sure enough, between reading this book for a church book discussion and watching Super Size Me, I vowed not to eat at any fast food chains anymore, with rare exceptions allowed.
So far I’ve kept that vow for 12 days, which is the longest I’ve gone without fast food for years—and for that my stomach thanks me.
Of course now I find myself asking questions like, “Is Subway fast food?” I vote no. “If I eat at a locally-owned pizza place that serves food fast, but spends more time preparing the meal, is that OK?” Again, I decided that was fine. And I like the fact my money is now going to local businesses.
Schlosser is an engaging, detail-oriented writer who vividly paints pictures that stay with you for days, be it about the mistreatment of animals and employees, the history of the fast-food industry or, perhaps the most disturbing part, the advertising aimed at children and the way they are using school districts to further promote their causes.
The descriptions of how the food is made and what it contains sickened me. I made the mistake twice of reading the book while eating, and both times I had to stop my meal short.
But I expected to be disturbed about that.
Tip for the future: Don’t read about the meat-packing industry and how weak government regulations of them are, while dining at an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant or else, when you get to, say, the part about how a fast-food hamburger contains meat not only from one cow but thousands—or how the government can’t require meat companies to recall meat even when it is clearly tained.
If you do you’ll probably find yourself saying, “Check please!” way before you’re full.
What I wasn’t ready for was the inhumane treatment of the employees, from companies that shut down franchises who were trying to unionize, to the ones where employees hours are monitored to make sure they don’t reach 40 hours, and thus become eligible for any benefits.
I think the most outrageous part was about companies requiring employees who have just been injured in the job—who have had, say, their arm ripped off by a machine—sign a waiver promising never to sue the company before providing the employee with any medical care.
In their race for the bottom line, to make as much money as possible, fast-food chains are cheating consumers, employees, and leading to a more obese society.
Those sins and more are detailed in this book which I recommend everyone read. Just make sure you’re not eating when reading it.
I give this book a 10.
Here’s some related info about the book.
A review in Salon
More on the book via Slate