Fast Food's Hidden Dangers
Jeffrey Zurlinden, RN, MS
| Every day, about one-quarter of American adults eat at fast-food restaurants. Cheap, tasty, and convenient, fast food is loaded with saturated fat and calories, and it's low in fiber and nutrients. Thanks in large part to fast food, half of America's adults and one-quarter of its children are obese, double the rate of a generation ago. Even some popular chicken nuggets, which many consumers consider a healthier alternative, are flavored with beef extract and contain twice as much fat, ounce for ounce, as a ham burger.
Besides the long-term health risks of a high-fat, high-calorie diet, fast-food chains have indirectly changed the way cattle are fed, slaughtered, and processed, making meatpacking the most dangerous job in America and increasing the risk of large-scale food poisoning. In his new book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser describes fast food's hidden dangers.
A Lifetime of Fast Food
Although most of the health problems related to fast food aren't felt until middle age -- obesity and diabetes are at an all-time high --- the damage starts before children enter kindergarten. Hoping to shape eating habits, fast-food chains market heavily to children. About 96% of American school-aged children recognize Ronald McDonald, second only to Santa Claus. Almost every American child eats at a McDonald's® at least once a month.
Fast food runs on cheap labor, usually supplied by teenagers. Child labor laws that restrict work schedules are often ignored at fast-food chains. Although part-time employment can teach teenagers responsibility, teenage boys who work long hours are more likely to abuse drugs and get into trouhle. They also risk getting hurt: Each year about 20,000 teenagers suffer work-related injuries, about twice the adult rate.
Meatpacking Factories: Injuries and Food Poisoning