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A Small Taste of Fast Food

How did I know forty years ago that "fast food," the vulgar, insidious preparation of chicken, beef, fish and potatoes with its slurpy beverages, was bad for me? I felt the same way about slippery green snakes that hissed in the grass. It was something in the way they looked and slithered and shimmered.

Fast food has covered the planet like moss and challenged mankind's health. It's put a chink in the armor of the vanishing individual and propagated the grinning, baying masses. The profile of the economy has been rearranged by the powerful industry and its many and long-reaching tentacles. Where there is immense power and growth so is there politics and favors, oversight and corruption.

At a recent fast food owners and operators convention in Las Vegas amidst laughter, food and drink, a Carl's Jr. bigwig pointed out with solemnity the problem certain consumer groups present to the industry with their narrow-minded views on health and environment, employee's rights and wages. Thorns in the sides of the giants, these long-contended issues are valid and make them mad. Make them worry.

Let's take a quick look:

All the food in a fast food restaurant is frozen, dehydrated, condensed, highly processed and freeze dried. It is full of fat and sugar, salt and preservatives. Secret flavors prepared in laboratories account for the taste appeal of the fries, meat and milkshakes. Without them you would doubt their authenticity as food. The single flavor "strawberry" to concoct a mouthwatering shake at Burger King contains 48 different chemicals with names like benzyl isobutyrate and ethyl methlphenylglycidate. I'll have water and a napkin, please, hold the food.

The fast food industry loves the government as long as it can govern it, usurp it or dodge it. They get considerable tax breaks for hiring unskilled workers that they promise to train and don't. They underpay their teen workforce, do nothing to develop them as "Young America," lose them before insurance and vacation benefits accrue and generally use them up. Okay. What's the point? It's not right and I thought you might be interested.

How about this? Fast food is in school cafeterias with all its unbalanced and nocuous ingredients. Just what little Tommy and Susie need to grow fat and hypered and insulin-dependent. It's also perfect timing to develop their taste for fat and syrup to ensure that they reach for the junk the rest of their lives. Who let this stuff in the schools in the first place?

We swing into the wide parking lot beneath the golden arches, gang in toe and make our order of jumbo Cokes (310 calories), Super-Size Fries (610 calories and 29 grams of fat) and double burgers with cheese and bacon (45 grams of fat and about 1,000 calories). The kids are off in the red, yellow and blue plastic playground sliding down slopes and planning the toys they'll snag on the way out the door. One hundred million McHappy Meals were sold in ten days during a record-breaking Teenie Beanie Baby giveaway. Thanks, Mom; do I get to keep all the fat and calories, too? How about the degenerating habits?

Yes, I know, you're right. Sociology is neither my expertise nor the scope of this website but I'm learning. The relevance of man's greed and power and ego, along with his ignorance and denial, cannot be excused from the unresolved condition he faces today: unchecked, self-destructive, weak-willed obesity. It's been thrust upon us by ourselves. I simply want you to know the source of some of the problems. Understanding a problem can help with its solution.

The United States has the highest rate of obesity in the world, twice what it was some thirty years ago. Nearly half the population is in the red zone — about forty-five million adults are obese. One quarter of all kids are overweight and out of shape. There is an alarming seven million folks walking around who are ranked as super obese and weigh at least a hundred pounds more than normal. A fat and unfit nation has locked hands with the fast food culture, a death grip that needs to be loosened.

There is no definitive epidemiological study that proves the relationship between obesity and the fast food restaurant. I'm just haunted by this nagging suspicion and their coincidence. Fast food restaurants spread like wild fire in the late sixties and early seventies with the obesity epidemic trailing in its billowing haze. McDonald's leaped the seas and opened shop in Great Britain, doubling its outlets throughout the years of '85 to '95. It was noted that the obesity rate of our great ally doubled as well. Pity.

Japan and China have not been spared. These once lean nations are growing pouches. They need to be on the alert for diseases they've never known: heart disease, stroke, diabetes... you know the list.

Obesity is hard to cure and some researchers believe prevention is the best remedy. I believe it is part of the prescription but it will not fix what's broken today as we desperately seek a healthier, more agreeable weight. Resisting a brightly lit, aroma-filled Jack-in-the- Box serving fat, sugar and chemicals in abundance is a good practice.

Here's a thought: Simply stop eating at the fast food chains. If we stood up, together and at once, and demanded much more in food quality and respect from the giants we'd get it. We outnumber their entire force thousands and thousands to one. Humbling odds.

Hurry. A new fast food restaurant opens every two hours.

Bombs, Draper

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