Aside from Obvious Health Issues, What are the Other Costs of Fast Food?

The environmental costs are tremendous. In animal farming, the continued use of antibiotics as a growth enhancement drug contributes to the growing cases of drug-resistant bacteria strains.  This is a growing concern for scientists and medical doctors around the world.  Manure from farm factories are often over-applied to crop land as factories overcrowd their facilities with animals in order to meet the demands of fast food giants, such as KFC and McDonald’s.  Although manure makes good fertilizer if properly applied, if over-applied, manure degrades water quality when it enters our water sources.  This can lead to sickness and disease for animals and people.  Incidentally, the two fast food giants mentioned above are the world’s two largest buyers of chicken.  By continuing to patronize these fast food giants, we are directly contributing to these environmental costs.

We also indirectly fuel lobbyists by continuing to purchase a large amount of the food we eat from fast food giants.

The fast food and beverage industry donated $5.7 million to the Republicans and Democrats combined.  Among the top ten donors were McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola.

What Role does Government Play in the Fast Food Industry?

Government is getting involved on both sides of the coin.  One of the latest controversial pieces of legislation before Congress today is the Cheeseburger Bill.  This bill bans lawsuits that blame the food industry for obesity and the unhealthy effects of eating too much junk food.  Backed by solid and strong lobbyists, fast food giants and other food suppliers/producers are taking steps to ensure that they do not become the subject of lawsuits similar to the tobacco industry.

On the other side is the legislation called the Parents’ Bill of Rights.  Here are some of the pieces of legislation that form this Bill of Rights:

    The Child Privacy Act which safeguards the privacy of children.
    The Commercial-Free Schools Act which prohibits corporations from using the schools and bypassing parents to get to their children.
    The Child Harm Disclosure Act which requires the disclosure of any harmful effects.
    The Advertising to Children Accountability Act which mandates corporations to disclose who created advertisements and who did the market research for the ad.
    The Children’s Food Labeling Act which requires corporations to label the food and nutritional contents of the food they sell to children.

Look at how lucrative the weight loss industry is and this gives you an excellent gauge of how profitable the fast food industry really is.  The major benefit that fast food brings to many Americans is the jobs it creates nationwide.  However, a point of concern is the generally low level of wages that workers in the food service industry earn.  (Our web site WorkingPoor.org explains the plight of these workers in .)  This industry has become so lucrative and competitive that there is a lot at stake should Americans decide to stop eating fast food.  This is the reason for the tremendous lobbying efforts being exerted, the millions of dollars being donated to political parties, the astronomical amounts of money spent on advertising in all forms of media possible, and the use of coy marketing tactics to bolster sales.

However, we need to step back and consider the costs of fast food.  The two primary costs are our health and environment.  Let us realize however that it is not the fast food giants who are fueling these costs, but we, the consumers.  If we continue to patronize fast food restaurants, we encourage factory animal farming, commercialization of schools and the use of marketing and selling tactics to our most vulnerable and naïve children.  We also put our health at risk by throwing out the balanced food pyramid and choosing to over indulge in the quick, tastier and cheaper fast food.  Write your elected representative and voice your concerns about the ill-effects of fast food.  Go to Congress.org to get contact information for your representative.  Write your congressman and let him or her know how you feel about commercialization in schools, particularly by the likes of Coca Cola and other soda pop companies.   Write letters to your local  media and voice your concerns about improper food labeling or non-disclosure of food contents.  Or you can continue to buy fast food and ignore your body’s need for a balanced and nutritional diet.  Remember that it’s your choice!