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Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Fast food has become a veritable American institution, with restaurants serving a quick bite in every strip mall and roadside rest area across the country. But, according to Fast Food Nation, the fast food establishment has been serving up much more than just cheap hamburgers and greasy fries. In compelling fashion, author Eric Schlosser traces the growth of fast food chains after World War II and condemns the industry for giving rise to such cultural maladies as obesity, classism, American global imperialism, and environmental devastation.

Questions for Discussion

  1. "The combination of low pay, high turnover and ample cash in the fast food restaurant often leads to crime." What can be done about this? Whose responsibility is it to do something about it: the corporate community's, the government's, ours?

  2. Schlosser claims that our taste buds are being literally manipulated by a very profitable flavor industry which dupes us with flavor additives. Is this practice a chilling Orwellian maneuver or just good old-fashioned American capitalist ingenuity?

  3. "The proportion of fast food workers who cannot speak English is very high. Many know only the names of items on the menu; they speak 'McDonald's English.'" Discuss the linguistic, racial, and social implications of this phenomenon.

  4. Is McDonald's morally or politically irresponsible for opening a restaurant at Dachau and distributing thousands of leaflets in the former concentration camp's parking lot that read, "Welcome to Dachau, and welcome to McDonald's"?

  5. Unlike other companies whose products are recalled, "Once a (meatpacking) company has decided to voluntarily pull contaminated meat from the market, it is under no legal obligation to inform the public or even state health officials that the recall is taking place." Discuss why this is true and the implications for the health of the American people, especially children.

  6. "Today the nation's fast food chains are marketing their products in public schools.... The proponents of advertising in schools argue that it is necessary to prevent further (financial) cutbacks; opponents contend that school children are becoming a captive audience for marketers, compelled by law to attend school and then forced to look at ads as a means of paying for their own education." Who is right? Are teachers becoming inadvertent, co-opted employees of the fast food industry?

  7. Schlosser explores exploitation of the work force, cruelty to animals, toxic ingredients in hamburgers, and obesity. Has he written a brilliant, muckraking book, or is he just another ultra liberal journalist with an axe to grind?

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