Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

by Mariner Books

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  • On any given day, one out of four Americans opts for a quick and cheap meal at a fast-food restaurant, without giving
    either its speed or its thriftiness a second thought. Fast food is so ubiquitous that it now seems as American, and
    harmless, as apple pie. But the industry's drive for consolidation, homogenization, and speed has radically transformed
    America's diet, landscape, economy, and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways. Eric Schlosser, an
    award-winning journalist, opens his ambitious and ultimately devastating exposé with an introduction to the iconoclasts
    and high school dropouts, such as Harlan Sanders and the McDonald brothers, who first applied the principles of a
    factory assembly line to a commercial kitchen. Quickly, however, he moves behind the counter with the overworked and
    underpaid teenage workers, onto the factory farms where the potatoes and beef are grown, and into the slaughterhouses
    run by giant meatpacking corporations. Schlosser wants you to know why those French fries taste so good (with a visit to
    the world's largest flavor company) and "what really lurks between those sesame-seed buns." Eater beware: forget your
    concerns about cholesterol, there is--literally--feces in your meat.

    Schlosser's investigation reaches its frightening peak in the meatpacking plants as he reveals the almost complete
    lack of federal oversight of a seemingly lawless industry. His searing portrayal of the industry is disturbingly similar
    to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, written in 1906: nightmare working conditions, union busting, and unsanitary practices
    that introduce E. coli and other pathogens into restaurants, public schools, and homes. Almost as disturbing is his
    description of how the industry "both feeds and feeds off the young," insinuating itself into all aspects of children's
    lives, even the pages of their school books, while leaving them prone to obesity and disease. Fortunately, Schlosser
    offers some eminently practical remedies. "Eating in the United States should no longer be a form of high-risk
    behavior," he writes. Where to begin? Ask yourself, is the true cost of having it "your way" really worth it? --Lesley
    Reed

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