Critical Book Review - Fast Food Nation

Fast food. It is definitely fast, and that is seen as a positive in most people’s eyes. It is convenient, cheap, and the average American is willing to accept it as food. What’s not to love, right? In his informational book, Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser promises to tell the dark side of the all-American meal. And he keeps his promise. Schlosser may not be the first to write about the subject, but he presents a thorough, easy-to-read report. Given the insane amount of fast food eaten by people throughout the country (and people all over the world), this is information that needs to be read by everyone.

Schlosser’s book covers much of fast food’s history and culture. He discusses how and why it developed, current labor practices, how the taste of food is manipulated, federal regulations, advertising, and health issues, among other things. “This is a book about fast food, the values it embodies, and the world it has made”, Schlosser says. It is quite the contradiction: the fast food industry is continually fighting against government interference, such as labor laws and safety regulations, but over its history it has benefited enormously from government action.

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The industry gives the option of affordable food without even leaving your car, and provides employment to a huge number of people – but the food is terribly unhealthy, and the majority of the work requires very little skill, teaching the teenagers and immigrants who tend to work there very little. The book is very jumbled, but Schlosser still paints a disturbing picture in the mind of the reader with gruesome details. He explains (the lack of) federal and state power pertaining to inspection and safety, which is frightening to say the least.

As far as dangers to customers, Schlosser focuses on E. coli and salmonella infection. He also states that working conditions are often extremely dangerous, not to mention unpleasant. Wages are low, and labor laws are often disregarded, creating a very poor work environment. The biggest issue in the book, which is often overlooked, is the role of the consumer. Labor law violations, unhealthy food, E. coli poisoning, and everything else remain surprisingly muted.

People don’t seem to care nearly as much as they should, and the majority of people still go to fast food restaurants frequently. Schlosser mentions that many employees won’t eat the food unless they prepare it themselves. But almost every teenager has either worked at a fast food establishment, or knows someone who has. They have certainly heard the awful stories, yet they still have no problem consuming these products. Schlosser closes the book with, “you can still have it your way”, meaning that we have the choice to say no to fast food.

His goal is clearly to convince consumers to avoid fast food at all costs. Many of the facts he provides are known, but he does discuss a great deal in one single book. There is a good chance that Fast Food Nation will ruin your appetite for dinner, but maybe that’s a good thing. It is chock full of information that everyone should be aware of. Schlosser presents much of it very nicely, though there are times when sections don’t fit together as they should. The book is a warning to the world, especially Americans, and a sincere effort to bring consumers to their senses.

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