www.whyville.net Apr 19, 2009 Weekly Issue

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Fast Food, Not So Great: Part 1

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I'm sure you all have been to or seen a fast food restaurant, right? McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Dunkin' Donuts, KFC, the list goes on and on. Well, how much do you eat there? Do you know what's in the food, how it's made, how they cook it, or where it all came from? Well, it took me by surprise when I read about it, and it altered my entire diet.

According to Eric Schlosser's book, "Chew On This", fast-food is a growing problem with the nation's health. I'd like to share my knowledge of this food industry. Just remember, I'm not trying to scare or brainwash you. I'm just trying to alert you of the harmful damage that fast food can cause, and how life altering your choices may be.

First of all, I'd like to talk about the french fries. At fast food restaurants, McDonald's for example, they claim that their fries are 100% okay for vegetarians to consume, and are cooked in pure vegetable oil. This, of course, is not true. From what I learned in "Chew On This", in year 2001, Hitesh Shah (a devoted Jain, a vegetarian, and a recurrent customer at McDonald's) became quite upset. He had heard that McDonald's used beef fat to "enhance the flavor, using a miniscule amount" of the product in their fries. Shah's religion, Jainism, is known for their actions of not eating, wearing, or breathing in any traces of animals. They wear cloths around their mouths to reduce the chance of inhaling any insects.

Anyways, McDonald's fries are not only cooked with beef, but they are unhealthy in another way. The fries are machine-cut at a factory called Lamb Weston; founded in 1950 by F. Gilbert Lamb. The whole potatoes are shot at a speed of 117 feet per second through a grid, which cuts them into fries. They are inspected, washed, and cooked by machines -- with very little human interaction. In order to make so many fries, the potatoes used are stored in buildings that can hold piles of potatoes 20 feet deep, 100 feet wide, and as long as two football fields. This company manufactures Steak House Fries, CrissCut Fries, Hi-Fries, Mor-Fries, Flamethrower Fries, TaterBabies, and Taterboy Curly QQQ Fries.

Next, I'd like to discuss what's in the fast food industry's drinks. Ever heard of Carmine? Carmine is exactly this: collected and dried little bugs that are ground into coloring additives. Coloring additives are used to make the liquids or foods you drink or eat different colors, such as red, pink, purple, blue, etc. Carmine is used in yogurts, most candies, drinks; basically everything that you wouldn't think twice about. On labels, you might find Cochineal extract or Carminic acid -- those are other names for Carmine. Just a tip, read labels.

Do you know how McDonald's treats their workers? Well, here's another interesting point of view illustrated in "Chew On This". One day, a sixteen year old worker named Sadi worked from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Just when she was about to leave, the manager asked her to stay and work a few more hours. Some fellow employees didn't show up. When a new manager got there three hours later, he asked if Sadi would continue working. She said, "Yes." At 11:00 PM, the manager asked if she would keep working, and yet again, Sadi agreed. She finally left the restaurant at half past three in the morning. The next day, the manager gave her a "thank you" gift. It was a bag of candy. An addition to that, Sadi only earned minimum wage -- the lowest possible pay that an employee can make. Most employees quit or get fired within a year of the job.

On every item of food that you or the people around you buy, there will be an indication of whether it has artificial flavoring or natural flavoring. Artificial flavoring is worse, much worse, than it appears to be. "If you were to make a strawberry milkshake at your house, you'd probably need ice, cream, strawberries, sugar, and vanilla," says "Chew On This". "In a fast-food restaurant strawberry milkshake, you'd find the following: milkfat and nonfat milk, sugar, sweet whey, high fructose corn syrup, guar gum, mono- and diglycerides, cellulose gum, sodium phosphate, carageenan, citric acid, red food coloring #40, and artificial flavor." What do you think that artificial flavor consists of? I'll tell you what -- over forty-five chemicals that don't even contain the word "strawberry".

As you can see, fast food is certainly unhealthy. At some high schools nationwide, there are fast food restaurants INSIDE the schools. How unhealthy do you think that is? Some lunch schedules have certain days that they allow fast food restaurants into the schools. For example, on Tuesdays they may have Subway, on Wednesdays they might have McDonald's, on Thursdays they might have Pizza Hut, and so on. Ever since the first hamburger was created, America has sprawled into unhealthy food and obesity. Over 40% of the children in New York City schools are overweight, according to Eric Schlosser's masterpiece, and over 20% are obese. What does this tell you? I think it tells us that, as humans, we should pay attention to what we are putting in our bodies. Heck, even reading the labels on your sports drinks can make you more aware. As the saying does, "You are what you eat."

Author's Note: I am working on another article that goes deeper into the topic of the fast food industry. What was included in this article was only a part of what I would like to say. I recommend reading Chew On This, by Eric Schlosser, to learn more about this subject. This book is an incredible way to inform the world and yourself about the growing fast-food industry crisis.


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