Overall, the book is fascinating and disturbing. Now I have to decide what to do with my new knowledge. These are the main things in the book that stood out to me. Be prepared: you might not want to know some of this.
- Franchises are not covered by federal laws that protect employees.
- Out of every $1.50 spent on an order of fries at a fast-food restaurant, perhaps 2 cents goes to the farmer who grew the potatoes.
- Chicken McNuggets are wildly popular among young children - and contain twice as much fat per ounce as a hamburger
- The entire chapter about slaughterhouses was disturbing and appalling. The people that clean the slaughterhouses at night cant see or hear anything. And the machinery they clean is usually moving. Some workers are literally ground up into nothing or beheaded. At a beef plant where five men died the same way, National Beef was fined $480 for each man's death. Way to communicate that dangerous working conditions are unacceptable.
- The US government can demand the national recall of defective toys, sneakers, stuffed animals, but it cannot order a meatpacking company to remove contaminated, potentially lethal ground beef from fast food kitchens and supermarket shelves. In most of the cases presented in the book, the USDA knew about contaminated meat and had to NEGOTIATE with the company to pull meat off shelves. And the companies always get to say they are voluntarily recalling meat, giving the appearance they are being proactive, when usually this step is taken weeks or months after the contamination has been discovered. And they are under no legal obligation to inform the public or state health officials that a recall is taking place. The USDA now informs the public about every recall, but will not reveal where the contaminated meat is being sold. (Is it any surprise that we had a problem with spinach recently?)
- 10,000 pounds of beef laced with glass were distributed
- Current FDA regulations allow dead pigs, dead horses and dead poultry to be fed to cattle, and dead cattle to be fed to poultry.
- In 1999, USDA tests showed that 47% of a Dallas-based plant's ground beef contained Salmonella, which indicates fecal contamination. With this knowledge, the USDA still purchased thousands of tons of meet from this plant for distribution in schools. The USDA finally took action and shut the plant down. They sued to get their plant back open and won. In 2000, they argued successfully that high levels of Salmonella did not prove that conditions in the plant were unsanitary.
- One of the Bush administration's first food safety decisions was to stop testing the National School Lunch Program's ground beef for Salmonella. In the 10 months the USDA had been testing, 5 million pounds were rejected due to contamination. Due to bad publicity, the administration reversed course three days later. But why would they want to stop testing in the first place?
- The USDA recently decided to perform E.Coli tests on the ground beef it buys for schools; this decision was made more than seven years after the Jack in the Box outbreak. Why the long wait?
- Super Size Fries have 610 calories and 29 grams of fat.
- The manufacture of frozen cheese pizzas is regulated by the FDA, but if a pizza has pepperoni on it, the USDA, which can't demand a recall, has food safety jurisdiction. Eggs are regulated by the FDA, but chickens are regulated by the USDA. Salmonella has been almost entirely eliminated from Swedish and Dutch eggs, but more than half a million people in the US become ill from eating Salmonella-infected eggs and more than 300 die.
- An American food processor can expect a visit from an FDA inspector, on average, once every 10 years.
- At the time of printing (January 2001) the roughly 200,000 fast food restaurants are not subject to any oversight by federal health authorities. Yeah, that makes lots of sense.
- Texas is the only station in the Union that allows a company to leave the workers' comp system and set up it's own process for dealing with workplace injuries. When a worker is injured at an IBP plant in Texas, he is presented with a waiver. Signing the waiver means surrendering your right to sue. If you sign the waiver, you may receive medical care by seeing a company-approved doctor. If you seek a second opinion, you lose all medical benefits. If you don't sign the waiver, you could be fired on the spot. And the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that is perfectly legal. Wow, that sure makes me proud to be a Texan.
Do I shrug my shoulders and assume nothing will change, or do I try to be the change I wish to see in the world? I've just listed a few things that stuck with me reading this book. The book taken as a whole is much more damning. The write makes a good point: the execs who run the fast food industry are business men. They will sell free-range, organic, grass-fed hamburgers if we demand it. They will sell whatever sells a profit.
But can we make them? Has anyone totally given up fast food restaurants? I boycotted McDonalds for five of six years, but that had more to do with their treatment of my friend. But if I would do that for my friend, why couldn't I do it for all other the voiceless people that experience something similar. Do I not worry about everything in this book, as one person suggested, because if I worried about everything wrong in the world, I would go crazy.
Can you tell that I'm completely torn about how to react to this book? So much that I read was hard to read. I can't imagine seeing it come to life. But I will go see the movie when it comes out. And I suggest you read the book or watch the movie. Then you can join me in my moral dilemma and state of absolute confusion.