18 Unsettling Truths About America’s Fast Food Industry

For better or worse, fast food has become synonymous with American culture and is the US’s biggest influence on cuisine worldwide.Inevitably, there are downsides to ordering fast, consistent, and cheap meals, and here we explore 18 eye-opening truths that may make you hesitate next time you’re tempted to order a Whopper!

Fast Food is High in Calories

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When you’re serving cheap, fast food, the taste doesn’t come from high-quality, fresh ingredients- it comes from processed sugar and fats. According to the National Library of Medicine, the average American consumes about 836 calories per fast food meal- almost half the recommended daily intake for an adult woman.

It Contains Too Much Salt

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On the subject of making food as tasty as economically possible, we should mention salt! The American Heart Association reports, “A sandwich or burger from a fast food restaurant can contain more than 100 percent of your daily suggested dietary sodium.” That’s just from one meal, even without the salty fries.

Nutritional Labelling Isn’t Always Accurate

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The New England Journal of Medicine highlights that many popular fast food items can contain significantly more calories than advertised, making them seem less fattening than they actually are. The nature of fast food makes nutritional content labels both difficult to access and hard to police for accuracy.

Fast Food Marketing Targets Children

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Fast food companies often use enticing toys, fun characters, and colorful marketing to entice children into their eateries. Many deem it unethical to ‘push’ such fat-laden, salty, and sugary foods on the youngest members of society- particularly when they are most in need of adequate nutrition for healthy growth.

Workers Get Minimum Wage

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A significant portion of fast food workers in the US earn minimum wage; indeed, the industry employs one-third of all workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage. So that burger may seem cheap, but be aware that vulnerable employees may be paying the price!

Livestock Live In Inhumane Conditions

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Many fast food chains source their high meat requirements from the cheapest factory farms, which often have the lowest levels of animal welfare. The Humane Society reports that many animals are raised in crowded, unsanitary, and unsafe conditions with little to no veterinary care.

Fast-food Contains Hidden Ingredients

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In addition to all that fat, sugar, and salt, your fast food meal contains an array of additives and preservatives to keep it edible for longer. The FDA also allows using various chemicals in fast food packaging, which can have long-term health consequences.

It’s Destroying the Environment

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Making a high volume of highly processed food as cheaply as possible leaves little room for environmental protection. The World Resources Institute states that the fast-food-driven livestock industry is a leading cause of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

Their Employees Don’t Get Health Benefits

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NC Health News reported that many fast-food employees could not afford healthcare and often avoided seeking medical advice for fear of mounting bills. Many fast-food patrons will be appalled to hear that the person taking their order or cooking their budget-friendly meal isn’t properly looked after by their employer.

Food Safety Is Questionable

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Several well-known food chains have been involved in food safety scandals involving employee hygiene, food storage practices, and kitchen cleanliness. In fact,  NBC News reports several cases of customers at fast-food outlets becoming infected with dangerous viruses and bacteria, including salmonella.

They Come With Sugary Drinks

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Fast food meals are frequently accompanied by drinks like sodas and juices that contain excessive sugar, while the high salt content is sure to have you drinking more than usual. Scientists have found a link between sugary drink consumption at fast food restaurants and obesity- and there’s also the associated risk of tooth decay and diabetes.

The Food Lasts Suspiciously Long

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Due to the nature of franchised and globally managed fast food restaurants, food items are often mass-manufactured and kept for extended periods before serving. The Environmental Working Group points out that this necessitates using preservatives- chemicals that often have adverse health effects.

Meat Quality Is Poor

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The adage goes that “you don’t get something for nothing,” and this applies to cheap, quick meals too. To cut costs, fast food restaurants often use mechanically separated meat from livestock in poor health, while bleaching the meat or using less-desirable cuts is also standard practice.

It Makes People Obese

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According to MDPI, a direct correlation exists between the density of fast-food restaurants in communities and higher obesity rates. This isn’t exactly surprising given the amount of processed sugar and saturated fats in a typical fast-food meal. Obesity increases a person’s chance of developing health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Fast Food May Make You Depressed

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Research published in The Annals of General Psychiatry revealed a link between mental health and fast food consumption. They found that individuals who regularly ate fast food were more likely to be depressed, although the exact mechanism behind this link remains unexplored.

It Generates Excessive Waste

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Restaurants that use reusable tableware are significantly more eco-friendly than fast-food joints that serve everything in disposable, takeaway packaging whether you eat in or not. Unsurprisingly, this generates significant amounts of unnecessary waste, particularly single-use plastics and plastic-coated cardboard.

The Menus Only Seems Diverse

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While the menu at a fast food outlet may seem to be offering you a variety of different dining options, many menu items offer the same foods dressed up in different guises. This lack of any real nutritional diversity makes eating at fast food restaurants excessively, particularly the same one, an unhealthy choice.

It Reduces Home Cooking

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While it may seem cliche, there are benefits to sitting down with your loved ones and enjoying a home-cooked family meal, and they aren’t just nutritional. The convenience and affordability of fast food have caused a decline in home cooking, resulting in poorer nutrition, reduced mental health, and a lower chance of vital culinary skills being improved and passed down.

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