The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 27 May 2003

Fast Food Nation

The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

by Eric Schlosser

One doesn't have to look far to see the effects of the fast food industry and its corporate posturing, styling and marketing. Indeed, the gross obesity epidemic in this country is merely one of the most visible results. Across the suburban landscape, urban sprawl has resulted in mile upon mile of cookie-cutter houses interspersed here and there with what appear to be standard issue strip malls of certain major chain stores. Little room is left for independent businesses, as giants, and their purchasing power, plow across the landscape, homogenizing our global culture, and serving us a bland mish-mash of style and lifestyle. While this book focuses on the fast food industry, the same marketing style has spread across everything from clothing to books to coffee. Schlosser outlines the effects all of this is having on the world. He tells us of the history of the fast food industry, particularly the McDonald's corporation, from its start in Southern California to its unbearable global reach. Schlosser has a political point to make here, but his astute observations make his conclusion more subtle and powerful than one expects from the book's rabble-rousing tone. He observes the industry from the perspective of its food, its labor practices and its environmental practices. He isn't trying to put the industry out of business (so he says, though it is said that McDonald's first annual loss is partly attributable to this book). He is trying to change the way people operate these massive concentrations of capital and power. The author sometimes states his intensely researched facts with an eye to enhancing their negative tone, but that certainly does not negate the facts. Fast food has changed the landscape from your downtown to the vast agricultural congomerates in the midwest. Fast food can be changed. Indeed, it changes itself to the whims of consumer opinion. Perhaps that is the key. Schlosser is cautiously hopeful. I find it hard to be upbeat. The book is likely to make you angry, no matter how you feel about that Big Mac and super-sized fries.

[Mail John][To List]