Is Fast Food to Blame?

Benjamin Franklin once stated, “Few die of hunger. Many die of eating.” However, we now have more information than ever before about the nutritional value of what we eat. Health experts have argued over eating fast food for years (“Burger Battles: Study Indicates that Fast Food Industry Targets Kids with Unhealthy Choices” 1). Our country, as a whole, still chooses to overeat and to consume high calorie meals. In the essay, “Don’t Blame the Eater,” by David Zinczenko, the fast food industry is blamed for the obesity epidemic. Although these massive conglomerates do not exactly endorse a good diet, making fast food chains a scapegoat is oversimplifying the answer; fast food is not the sole reason for billions of people who have become obese (Remedios 1). Regardless of the many food options available, the eater still makes a conscious choice to consume what he wishes.

When a consumer drives down the highway in his local town, a variety of food choices are available. Small towns and big cities have grocery stores and markets, as well as many other restaurants. However, planning meals and shopping requires time management. In other words, it takes effort to choose wisely. Many people are simply too busy to put forth the effort needed to maintain a balanced diet. We also tend to do what comforts us, and fast food places are loaded with comfort foods. If we have had a bad day, we can justify treating ourselves with a fried apple pie and ice cream. Again, that is our choice, and the restaurant shouldn’t be blamed for what we choose to ingest.

Fast food companies are marketing to children with proven health hazards and no warning labels (Zinczenko 197). Even with all the advertising aimed at hungry consumers, ultimately the choice is still with the eater. We have microwaves that cook our food in seconds and fast food caters to the “I want it now society” we have created.  About one-third of U.S. teens and young children eat some type of fast food every day (“Burger Battles: Study Indicates that Fast-Food Industry Targets Kids with Unhealthy Choices” 1). One major city is even blocking new fast food restaurants from setting up shop within a quarter of a mile from primary and secondary schools (“Why One Major City Will No Longer Let Fast Food Outlets Open Near Schools” 1). It is absurd that a fast food restaurant is prevented from opening because it is being blamed for obesity. The drive thru worker doesn’t force the customer to order foods with high fat and low nutritional value. Today there are more choices than ever before in the fast food arena. At most fast food chains, the calorie count is listed on the menu. Some fast food establishments also cater to dieters by offering many healthy choices. The many healthy choices that are now available clearly do nothing to validate the argument that fast food is to blame for overweight Americans.

Affordability is another argument people use to blame the fast food industry. In 1953, fast food accounted for four percent of total sales of food outside the home; by 1997, it accounted for thirty-four percent (Isganaitis 2452). Several fast food restaurants have a “dollar menu” to draw consumers in. Realistically, when a consumer calculates how much he spends out of his monthly food budget on fast food, it can be rather high. However when a hungry teenager hears that a double cheeseburger only costs a dollar, they tend to order several of them. It is still the consumer’s choice to spend their dollars on a “happy meal” instead of a healthier option. So the argument that fast food is cheaper does nothing to shift the blame from the eater. When meals are cooked at home, the food tends to be healthier and at least there are left overs, which can possible supply another meal or two, and save money.

Fast food is not solely to blame for obesity. The recent increase in international obesity rates is not primarily due to the prevalence of fast food chains, but rather a complex matrix including agriculture, industrialization, and net income (Remedios 1). All of these reasons, along with choice, convenience, and time management greatly influence the obesity rate. Once again, the consumer makes a conscious decision to eat what he wants.

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