The Lesser Known Health Risks of Eating Fast Food

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Anyone who’s ever googled “fast food + germs” has probably never eaten fast food again. (Tip: If you haven’t done this already, it’s recommended you avoid Google Images. You will regret it.) The internet is full of devastating information about the fast food industry. No large chain is exempt. The information is horrific and disgusting – and that’s before we consider the fat, sugar and salt content in the foods available at these “restaurants.”

It’s not as though consumers aren’t aware. Despite efforts of the media to enlighten consumers on the danger of consuming these foods (the same media outlets that sell advertising to the very chains their news programs publicly condemn), people continue to eat them. Why?

Are these foods really that addictive or are the latest results to the latest studies simply not scary enough? In fact, the majority of studies show that providing calorie information does not lead to consumers ordering or consuming fewer calories.

What will it take to get hungry people to fight the fast food impulse? One study showed that labelling the amount of exercise if would take to burn off certain foods was a much greater deterrent than listing any other nutritional information. Let’s take a look at what some of that labelling might look like:

WARNING:

Exercise required to burn a single patty cheeseburger with condiments, served with a chicken caesar salad and orange juice (Total: 930cal)

Ride a bike for one hour and forty-two minutes

or

Take the dog on a three hour and fifty minute walk

or

Practice hatha yoga for five and a half hours

Exercise required to burn a  double patty cheeseburger with condiments, served with medium fries and large coke (Total: 1270cal)

Run at a brisk pace for two hours and eighteen minutes

or

Attend a three-hour aerobics class

or

Waltz for six hours and twenty minutes

These are conservative meal plans. They don’t account for supersized fries and soda, breaded and deep fried chicken patties, dipping sauces, decadent shakes and “smoothies” (many of which have more than a thousand calories!) or anything of that nature.

With the right incentive, it’s a lot easier to make clear-headed decisions about what to eat. Let’s take a look at some other tactics that might inspire better food choices. How about “germ labelling” on all meat products.

WARNING:

– Our ice machines have been shown to contain more bacteria than toilet water.

– This kebab may contain “unsatisfactory levels” of food-poisoning bacteria.

– Certain patties may contain e.coli.

Sound wild? Of course, no government could compel businesses to disclose such information, since it would mean sudden death to profits. And yet, these are all very common violations in the fast food industry.

Low levels of bacteria – enough to appear in a test but not enough to debilitate the customers – are extremely common in fast food restaurants. The employees behind the counter are often young and inexperienced. They don’t necessarily know you can’t prepare raw meat and cooked meat together. They don’t care that a spit sandwich can get you fired – there are plenty of similar jobs available.

How about listing the previous health violations right near the cash register? What if the restaurant you ate ate had a label  like this:

WARNING:

– In the last six months, our restaurant was fined three times for various health violations.

– Recently, a rat was found decomposing behind one of our freezers.

– A recent customer found a cockroach in his soda.

These are all real life examples from some of the most popular fast food chains in the world.  This isn’t something that’s happening in a country far, far away to people grossly addicted to unhealthy food.  These are common violations that happen every day in the world of fast food. The danger is very real.

Most of us aren’t nutritionists. We don’t have much frame of reference for calorie charts and, other complicated nutritional information. We know we are allegedly supposed to be eating around 2000 calories a day, but even this number is in itself misleading, since many forget to calculate how many calories they consume by drinking and snacking. Even then, age, gender and level of exercise can move that number up and down a significant amount.

Awareness is so important. Rather than stating the amount of calories or the sorts of germs and other horrific health hazards that can result from fast food, how about educating the masses on the awesome power of living food, prepared in the home with love?

Maybe the secret is not to scare consumers away from eating fast food but to show them just how much healthy food can enrich one’s life. Preparing food used to be something we learned in the home. That art is slipping away. Maybe it’s time schools brought back “home economics”, to teach students to manage their plates with love, care and nutritional finesse. That kind of practical education sounds like a story worth writing about.

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