Monday, October 29, 2007

Our Fast Food Incident

The onus lies on parents to educate their children about the ill effects of fast food.”

This is a quote from my latest entry on fast food.

In our family fast food is not part of our diet. This choice has evolved in our family. We all have made this commitment both individually and as a family.

The reasons start with the abuse of meat packing plant workers; the exploitation of immigrants who are working in THE most dangerous work in any American plant. The reasons continue because of

  • the poor quality of fast food

  • The fecal matter in hamburgers

  • the hormones, chemicals and anti-biotics in the food

  • the greed of the major fast food decision makers

  • the inhuman treatment of animals raised and slaughtered for America's gluttony

  • the high fat content

Because of our family commitment I, certainly cannot condone fast food -- especially as a “treat”.

We recently had a “situation” where a child's parent in my son's class brought McDonalds to all the kids as a treat in celebration of her son's birthday. Whatever happened to the old fashioned birthday party? ---->
  • cake and ice cream
  • pin the tail on the donkey
  • drop clothespin in the milk bottle
  • wheel barrow races

When we have one everyone raves at how cool it is. "Retro" is in guys! The kids have a blast, the parents kick back and relax and sometimes even play with their kids.

Anyway, the parent was taking "McDonalds orders" and my son raised his hand to say that we do not eat McDonalds could he just have his regular lunch. My son really likes this little guy whose birthday brought about this situation. He did not want to hurt his feelings but he knew our commitment. I do not think the teacher understood our stance on this issue. She told my son, "I will talk to your mother." I think she may have been a little perturbed at my solid, “No.” She mentioned how this was a special occasion and seemed put off that my son would be the “different” one. She alluded to the feelings of the parent and how the parent would not want to leave my son out of the special treat.

Special Treat? And that was supposed to make it ok? That would be elevating fast food to a special status – something to be looked forward to or viewed as some kind of treat of celebratory food.

If you've made a commitment – you keep that commitment.

Further, if it is bad for you – it is bad for you.

If giving money to fast food companies contributes to putting people in danger or in exploiting them – it does that even if we only SOMETIMES “eat McDonalds”.

Yes, the onus lies on parents to educate their children about the ill effects of fast food.

And now I know that it is soley in our family's hands. We will get no support from our son's teacher or school. What a shame.

Just a note -- My son wasn't complaining.


Portion of source article:

photo of schlosserinterview: eric schlosser

Where does hamburger come from?

Hamburger comes from cattle. The cattle start on ranches, and then are sold to feedlots. And the feedlots aren't small little operations with 30 to 40 cattle in them. They're enormous, and can have up to 100,000 cattle in a single feedlot.

This has huge implications for food safety, because these cattle are often living like in a medieval city, in their own manure. From the feedlot, they'll get shipped to the slaughterhouse, processed into smaller cuts of meat, and then go to the grinder -- many slaughterhouses have a grinder right nearby -- and then go into further processing at a patty plant. Then they'll be at the fast-food restaurant, from the patty plant. ...

. . . .There a couple of problems when it comes to contamination of the meat. Some of it is visible manure on the meat. The other problem is the invisible aerosoled manure that is spread everywhere.

Let's talk specifically about the packers and the role that they play. You talked about the power of the fast-food companies. I think people in general don't understand the dynamics of the meat industry and how it's segregated. Who are the big players on the block? Who are the ones that really control the meat industry?

There are really three companies that control the beef industry in the United States. Excel, which is a subsidiary of the huge agribusiness company Cargill. ConAgra, another huge agribusiness company. And Tyson IBP, which is the biggest meatpacking company the world has ever seen. These three companies are the heart of the American meatpacking industry.

How powerful are they?

They're very, very powerful. If you're a rancher or if you're a consumer, these three companies have an enormous impact on the sale of cattle and on the meat that's being purchased. ...


Portion of another source article: "Battling Food-Poisoning Bacteria":

"Public concern over E. coli O157:H7 has skyrocketed since 1993, when the microbe—in undercooked hamburger patties—killed four children in the Pacific Northwest. In that single outbreak, 477 people were infected from the undercooked, contaminated hamburger.

Foodborne disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 are found in feces and spread to food through fecal contamination. One of the prime ways to reduce bacterial contamination is to reduce fecal contamination in livestock and poultry slaughter facilities. Current federal regulations mandate zero tolerance for visible fecal contamination and for E. coli O157:H7.

At the slaughterhouse, visual inspections and carcass cleaning have been two of the standard tools for reducing the likelihood of E. coli and other bacterial contaminants in meat.

But 'the human eye is not very sensitive and often can't tell the difference between feces and blood clots that can be on a carcass,' says ARS microbiologist Mark A. Rasmussen at Ames."

"Battling Food-Poisoning Bacteria" was published in the February 1999 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.


Can you handle some more??

In this article for Mother Jones magazine, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, details the often brutal economics of working in today's meatpacking plants. "Over the past four years," Schlosser writes, "I've met scores of meatpacking workers in Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas who tell stories of being injured and then discarded by their employers." Schlosser explains why the current system -- in which some plants slaughter cattle at a rate of 400 per hour -- is less secure for the workers, both physically and economically. "A lack of public awareness, a lack of outrage, have allowed these abuses to continue, one after another, with a machine-like efficiency. This chain must be stopped."


Chaz said...

Great post! I wish more people would snap out of the "follow the crowd" mentality and make some simple changes like --- no fast food.
Hang in there. Doing what is right is not always popular (or understood or accepted) just as doing what is popular is not always right.

Milehimama said...

About the birthday parties - we always have those type for the kids, usually topped off with a pinata (made by the birthday kid!).
It is amazing to me that my children's classmates and friends don't even know HOW to play Pin the Tail and Musical Chairs.

Have you read "The Jungle"? It's almost 100 years old now, but not much has changed!

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