Study Guide

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

by Eric Schlosser

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

Themes

Health and Wellness
The primary theme running through this exposé of the fast food industry concerns health issues caused by inadequate or tainted food. The United States now has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, mostly because of the eating habits of Americans who are attracted to fast food restaurants. The food tastes good, but it is loaded with salt, fat, and sugar. But not just the burgers and fries are to blame. Schlosser also points his finger at soft drinks, which are being consumed in larger and larger cup sizes.

Corporate Greed and Manipulation
Unfair labor practices are exposed throughout the book. Huge corporations put pressure on small ranchers, family farmers, and the environment; and lobbyists from the fast food industry influence state and federal laws. How much should these lobbyists be involved in the U.S. government if they are allowed to promote unsafe working conditions?

Schlosser also questions the role of labor unions and why they are not more involved in the fast food industry. Why is OSHA (the Occupation Safety and Health Administration) so undermanned and thus unable to thoroughly monitor industries such as meatpacking? Because these industries are left to make their own regulations without being overseen by the government, food-borne illnesses are becoming more prevalent in processed foods. If OSHA played a greater and more present role, would the incidents of E. coli be diminished in the production and distribution of U.S. beef?

There is also the issue of advertising in schools, which provides much-needed revenue for the schools but exposes students to messages that draw them to food that has little or no nutritional value. Schlosser implies that capturing the minds of young children through fast food logos, mascots, and gimmicks is akin to brainwashing.

McDonaldization
The sheer size of the fast food industry can be frightening, Schlosser points out. The industry is changing the very landscape of the United States. People’s homes (farms and ranches), communities, and personal lives are all influenced by the increasing number of fast food places. Teens have to work longer hours to make a decent wage. And with fast food available on every other corner, small restaurants cannot compete and are going out of business.

Lori Steinbach, Ed. Scott Locklear