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“Today, about half of the money used to buy food is spent at restaurants – mainly at fast food restaurants” (Schlosser 4). Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” not only focuses on the changing ways the world eats and the epidemics of obesity in America, but also the “McDonaldization” of society. In 1940, the first McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino. It was a fast-food drive-in restaurant that sold tasty hamburgers, French fries, and drinks. Carhops took the orders of hungry customers from their cars and brought them back their food, while short-order cooks prepared their orders.
McDonald’s delicious hamburgers captured the taste buds of many, earning visits from people who lived far from the restaurant. Soon after, as the business started to grow rapidly, workers had to adapt and keep up with the ever-changing, fast-paced work environment which challenged their work method. The preparation and service methods became ineffective; there were simply far too many customers.
How it works
McDonald’s closed in 1948 and reopened after a short span of three months. It had transformed into an efficient business with better methodical practices, introducing the concept of factory assembly lines into their new and improved kitchen. Entrepreneur brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald, introduced the clever “Speedee Service System”, which set the standards in the fast food business and industry.
Hence, the concept of assembly line preparation began infiltrating many businesses alike, proving the method to be successful. In addition to the success of these fast food chains was their triumph in targeting children with their advertisements, drawing them into their restaurants to buy their fast-food junk. With a large number of franchises launching nationwide and the implementation of clever marketing tactics, the fast food industry began to gain momentum.
Not only were these nationwide franchises producing the same burgers and fries, but they were also responsible for the similar health problems they were creating for their consumers, especially young children. While Schlosser makes many valid points suggesting a congressional solution to ban all advertising towards children, his reasonings prove to be impractical and weak. He doesn’t demonstrate any critical thinking nor does he provide evidence to support his statements.
Banning junk food advertisements doesn’t necessarily stop kids from consuming fatty and sugary foods. Schlosser argues that banning such advertisements to children would “discourage eating habits that are not only hard to break, but potentially life-threatening” (262). However, he fails to communicate that, if Congress were to ban advertising junk food towards children, it is unlikely that children will make healthier choices. Schlosser claims these unhealthy eating habits are “hard to break” and “potentially life-threatening”, but many kids prefer eating junk food over healthy foods such as leafy greens and fruits.
According to Priya Fielding-Singh’s Los Angeles Times article “Why do poor Americans eat so unhealthfully? Because junk food is the only indulgence they can afford,” she affirms that “96% of high-income families” were more likely to say “no” to the junk food requests of their kids and that “only 13% of low-income families had a parent that reported regularly declining their kids’ requests” (Fielding-Singh). In other words, whether a child was from an affluent background or from the low-income distribution, they requested junk food. Not to mention, junk food is affordable and is at times the only food low-income parents can afford to feed their children.
Furthermore, Schlosser does not follow through with his arguments and does not consider the other side of the equation. When Schlosser said, “a ban on advertising unhealthy foods to children would discourage eating habits that are not only hard to break, but potentially life-threatening,” (262) he did not elaborate and failed to answer possible questions that his audience may have such as “why does Schlosser think that banning advertisements that promote junk food will stop children from consuming it?” He is simply just making a number of statements without letting the audience know why he thinks this way. Banning advertisements of junk food toward children is also impractical and may raise many problems that Schlosser does not seem to think about.
According to Liz Leslie’s Indiana Public Media article “Food Marketing To Kids: Free Speech or Fair Suggestions?,” she says that food companies had formed the lobbying group, “Sensible Food Policy Coalition”, in response, and with the help of lawyers, drew up white papers stating the suggestions were a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech” (Leslie). Banning such advertisements would contradict people’s right to exercise their freedom of speech rights; this could lead to a chaotic scene of angry protesters (people of the fast-food industry, owners of small junk food businesses, supporters, etc.) protesting their rights.
Schlosser continues to argue his point without providing any evidence to support his argument. He states that banning junk food advertisements would “encourage the fast-food chains to alter their recipes for their children’s meals” and “greatly reducing the fat content of Happy Meals, for example, could have an immediate effect on the diet of the nation’s kids” (262). Here, Schlosser fails to mention what is in those Happy Meals that are contributing to the health problems of children. Plus, the happy meals contain apple slices, protein (chicken nuggets or hamburger), and a drink of their choice (low-fat milk, chocolate milk, or apple juice) which is healthier than a majority of the foods on the McDonald’s menu.
In Brooke Nelson’s Business Insider article, “The 5 Healthiest Things to Order at McDonald’s, According to a Nutritionist,” she shares Sarah Koszyk’s, R.D.N., a sports dietitian and weight management specialist, recommendations for ordering “a cheeseburger, kids fries, and apple slices for a relatively well-balanced meal” (Nelson). In other words, the McDonald’s Happy Meal that Schlosser implies is contributing to health risks among kids may not be as detrimental as he suggests. Schlosser also claims that “every month more than 90 percent of the children in the United States eat at McDonald’s” (262).
He doesn’t cite the source of his “90 percent” figure, making it appear to be his approximation. Karen Kaplan, in her Los Angeles Times article “CDC Reveals Just How Much Fast Food American Kids Eat Each Day,” reveals that data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that “on any given day, 34.3% of U.S. children and teens between the ages of 2 and 19 eat pizza, fried chicken, tacos or some other dish prepared in a fast-food restaurant” (Kaplan). Schlosser doesn’t clarify the origin of his information to his readers.
I can sympathize with the other side of the argument and understand why Schlosser would propose the banning of advertisements targeting children, though it might seem impractical. According to the University of Adelaide’s article in the Scientific Daily, “Kids Hit Hard by Junk Food Advertising,” Professor Lisa Smithers says that “the World Health Organization has concluded that food marketing influences the types of foods that children prefer to eat, ask their parents for, and ultimately consume” (University of Adelaide). In simpler terms, food advertisements aimed at children affect their behavior. Schlosser’s worry about the rising obesity rate and other health hazards affecting children is reasonable.
As per the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), “The obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has also more than quadrupled during the past 40 years – from 4.2 to 17.4 percent – as well as tripled for adolescents ages 12 to 19, climbing from 4.6 to 20.6 percent.” Additionally, in the Alternet article “8 Countries Taking Action Against Junk Food Marketing” by Marisa Tsai, it’s stated that “after Quebec’s law passed in 1980 restricting junk-food marketing to kids, banning fast-food companies from marketing to children under 13 ‘in print and electronic media’, fast-food expenditures subsequently decreased 13%” (Tsai). I can understand why Schlosser advocates for the ban on marketing junk food to kids. The example of Quebec shows that restricting junk food advertising to children can be effective, although a “13%” decrease might seem small.
Eric Schlosser offered some good points in his argument but did not demonstrate any critical thinking when it came to defending his position. When he said that banning advertisements of junk food to children would prevent or stop their unhealthy eating habits, he failed to consider the fact that banning such advertisements won’t suddenly make kids eat healthier. He did not follow through and elaborate further in his argument; he is essentially leaving many potential questions that his audience may have unanswered.
For example, Schlosser took McDonald’s Happy Meal which he implied contributed to the health problems of children. However, he neglected to let the audience know what was in those Happy Meals that he claimed were so full of fat and sugar. Even if advertisers were prohibited from promoting junk food, the huge golden arches of McDonald’s, the smiling star of Carl’s Jr, or the colorful kid-friendly packaged junk snacks at grocery stores are enough to encourage children to eat unhealthy foods.
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