Greater Health Regulations on American Fast Food Restaurant
America is a nation driven by fast foods that include fried chicken, tacos, burgers, and fries. Fast food is very popular in the country owing to the fact that it is fast to make and even faster to consume. It is also relatively cheaper than having to wait in a restaurant for a full-course meal. In addition, fast food is easy to carry around making it ideal for those people who are always on the go but also need to munch on something at different times of the day. To be more precise, fast food has entrenched itself in American culture because of its all-round convenience. We all know how we Americans love convenience, don’t we?
It is easy to believe that your favorite fast-food restaurant is always clean and is following all of the required health regulations. The advertisements ran by these companies make the companies seem very legitimate. They usually target those who are most susceptible to eat cheap food in restaurants. Not so long ago, I too believed in these adverts and saw fast food as the cheapest and most convenient means of food available to me.
I never had a problem with fast food before because I literally grew up on KFC and McDonald. My mother worked very long hours and getting a quick meal together for me and my siblings every day was an almost impossible task. Fast food was delicious and hassle-free plus it seemed very cheap at the time.
This was before my sister fell violently ill in the Spring of 2006. She constantly complained of a persistent pain in her tummy. She would get feverish at night and could not hold anything down for more than an hour. The doctors did not have to look very far for the cause of her anguish. It was determined that my sister was suffering from food poisoning. We recalled that she began exhibiting the symptoms soon after we had dined at our local KFC. Needless to say, she has never eaten food from a fast-food restaurant ever again.
Another reason why I call for stronger regulation for the industry is my younger brother’s ailing health. He has been eating junk food since he was a toddler. Now at only the age of 24, he is morbidly obese, diabetic, and hypertensive. His specialist doctor attributes all these diseases to his continued consumption of junk food especially fast foods.
I believe that regulations that are more stringent should be put in place when it comes to monitoring the health of the food sold by fast-food restaurants not only because of my first-hand experience with its detrimental effects but also the experiences of many other Americans.
Literally, thousands of people are falling ill every single day because of eating food from these establishments. For instance, a child in Colorado was infected with the salmonella bacterium after eating at a KFC in the area. Reports from the hospital where he was treated indicate that the infection was very serious, as his kidneys had already begun to fail when he was being admitted.
There was also the incident whereby 100 people fell violently ill after eating at a McDonald’s restaurant in Tennessee. Many of those who fell ill were taken to the hospital with complaints of dehydration and hallucination. The CDC claims that a sick restaurant employee (s) could have been responsible for contaminating the food at the restaurant.
Hearing of these cases every single day has convinced me that the fast-food industry is a health menace in the country. The cases continue to build up indicating that the government is literally doing nothing about this endemic. I could say that my negative attitude towards fast-food restaurants also stems from the media reports that I have become accustomed to.
It is difficult not to form a negative attitude towards the multi-billion industry with news stations across the country constantly reporting on the industry’s hazardous effects especially on children. The public has been made privy to the various ways that these corporations are blatantly flaunting the health regulations prescribed by both the federal and the state governments. The news stations also invite health experts almost weekly to discuss on how fast food companies are killing the American populace.
Thousands of people every day are exposed to food borne pathogens by eating meat products from the fast food restaurants. The centralized food system created by the fast food industry is very vulnerable to spreading pathogens that can have disastrous effects on human health. Most of the meat produced or utilized in this system is often contaminated with E. coli. This infected meat is distributed across the country due to poor government oversight and industrialized production. The chances of infection are even greater when many parts of an animal are used in the manufacture of a single food item such as a burger (Grossman, 2015).
Grossman (2015) also argues that most fast food restaurants are not doing their part in reducing the quantity of antibiotics used in the production of their foods. Many of the fast food restaurants purchase livestock literally laced with antibiotics. The livestock are grown by farmers who use the antibiotics as a way to promote growth in the livestock. The continued use of antibiotics leads to the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
When human beings constantly consume these antibiotic-laced livestock products, they end up being infected by the antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in the products. This means that conventional means of treatment become largely ineffective in these individuals and they may end up dying as a result.
For instance, the CDC estimates that more than 2 million people become infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year. The organization speculates that the most prevalent way of contracting such bacteria is through the consumption of fast food meat products. The organization further explains that nearly 23,000 individuals die because of the antibiotic resistant infections every single year (Grossman, 2015).
The FDA, the premier organization mandated with the responsibility of monitoring antibiotic use in the nation, asserts that 70% of the antibiotics (medically important ones) sold in the nation are purchased for livestock use. The FDA has attempted to force livestock owners from purchasing antibiotics for the purposes of growth promotion. However, most livestock farmers have found a way to circumvent the system by purchasing the antibiotics on the basis of ‘disease prevention’ rather than growth promotion. The FDA does not seem to know what to do in this instance Schlosser, 2002).
Many of the fast food restaurants have begun undertaking self-regulatory actions in order to avoid government regulation. Allowing for self-regulation can be very advantageous for both the government and the industry concerned. However, self-regulation can also be a very risky venture. For instance, McDonalds issued a statement that it was reducing the number of chicken it purchases from farms that are known to use antibiotics. However, the fast food franchise is yet to develop a similar policy on other meat products such as beef despite the fact that it is the country’s largest purchaser of beef (Sharma, Teret, & Brownell, 2010).
All these events point to a need for greater health regulations on fast-food restaurants in America. The government and the public cannot wholly rely on the fast food franchises in the country to self-regulate. Self-regulation might have worked for industries such as marine fishing and forestry. However, the model has proved to be an abject failure in the fast food industry just like it was for the tobacco industry. The two industries have a common element of greed whereby they are willing to deceive the public in order to make more money.
The issue of regulation does not solely rest on the shoulders of the government. The public cannot trust the government to have its best interests at heart when dealing with a multi-trillion industry such as the fast food industry. The consumers have to come out in large numbers and pressurize the companies to conform to the health standards of the day. In the end, the consumer will suffer health complications if he does not stand up for his right to healthy food prepared in a safe environment using safe and efficient techniques.
Grossman, E. (2015, 15 September). Most fast food restaurants get a failing grade on antibiotic use in meat. CivilEats. Retrieved from http://civileats.com/2015/09/15/most-fast-food-restaurants-get-a-failing-grade-on-antibiotics-in-meat/
Sharma, L., Teret, S., & Brownell, K. (2010). The food industry and self-regulation: Standards to promote success and to avoid public health failures. Am J Public Health, 100 (2): 240-246.
Schlosser, E. (2002). Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York, NY: Perennial.