14 June 2003

Fast Food Nation

Just when I thought that true investigative reporting had disappeared from the mainstream media Schlosser comes along and produces a fine piece of muckraking on the fast food industry. The fast food industry is explored in depth - from historical anecdotes from the inception in California in the 1950's, a look at the workers and labor practices, a study of the flavoring factories, behind the scenes "fast-food"-ization of the potato farming and meatpacking industries whose biggest customers now are the fast food chains.

I haven't touched a morsel of ground beef since I read this, and you, if you valued your health, wouldn't either unless you knew the origin of the ground beef (out of the major chains, In & Out Burger is the safest choice).

Some other choice morsels from the book:

  • More restaurant workers are murdered on the job than police officers.
  • Meatpacking industry is dependent upon migrant labor, with a 300% turnover rate, and uses public subsidy programs to transport and employ migrant workers. Safety is horrific, and accidents are commonplace. Workers have limbs amputated, then are required to report for work the next day.
  • Every day in the U.S., 200,000 people are sickened by a foodborne disease, 900 are hospitalized and 14 die.
  • E. Coli 0157:H7 cannot be treated by antibiotics and is resistant to acid, salt, chlorine. 10% of the people sickened during the recent Jack in the Box outbreak did not eat a contaminated burger, but were infected by someone who did. E.Coli 0157:H7 can withstand freezing and live on countertops for weeks. It can survive heat up to 160 degrees.
  • Reagan and Bush administrations cut spending on public health, crippling the USDA. Clinton Administration efforts to implement a tough science-based food inspection system were thrwarted by the Republicans, who are the beckoning call of the meatpacking and fast food industry. Republicans ensured that the federal government would be denied any authority to recall contaminated meat or impose fines on any firm that knowingly ships contaminated products.
  • In many cases of where contaminated meat is voluntarily pulled by a company, the company is under no obligation to report to the public or public health officials.
  • A series of tests by a University of Arizona microbiologist discovered that there is far more fecal material in the average American kitchen sink than on the average American toilet seat. Now I know why my cats drink out of the toilet and eschew the tap water set out for them.