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Why Fast Food Companies Must Be Help Accountable for Their Ingredients

by Lynn VanDyke

COPYRIGHT: ©2005 by Lynn VanDyke. All rights reserved

Drive down any suburban or city street and you will witness

an overload of fast food marketing. Brightly colored signs,

cheap value meals, happy cartoon logos, and a familiar smell

will fill your senses. Fast food restaurants have

established themselves as a leader in our nation’s daily

menu. What is the net affect fast food and its ingredients

have on our health? What, if any, moral and social

obligations do fast food companies have to their consumers?

Obesity is believed to lead to diabetes, heart disease,

hypertension and other illnesses. Over 60% of Americans are

considered over weight, and the rise in diabetic individuals

has increased dramatically. In 1999 there were 42 billion

people on direct diabetes medicine. That figure has more

than doubled in less than three years.

“Fast food is literally shortening the life span of our

citizens,” states Lynn VanDyke, certified sports

nutritionist, personal trainer and owner of McDonalds serves 46

million fast food meals every single day. As the

documentary Super Size Me points out, each McDonalds

employee is trained to up sell the size of each order. This

increase in meal and drink proportions is becoming so widely

acceptable that cars now come with larger cup holders.

The fast food process truly begins with the ingredients. As

Eric Schlosser mentions in his article “Why McDonalds French

Fries Taste So Good”, the federal Food and Drug

Administration does not require companies to disclose the

ingredients of their color or flavor additives so long as

all the chemicals in them are considered by the agency to be

generally recognized as safe, or GRAS. Unfortunately,

consumers are not able to tell a products full ingredient

list by reading the nutrition label. Terms such as

‘artificial’ and ‘natural flavoring’ are often seen at the

very end of most ingredient lists. We are completely

unaware of exactly what constitutes a natural or artificial


Fast food companies owe it to their consumers to disclose

all ingredient information. Many people have special

dietary restrictions due to allergies or religious

affiliations. Some people simply prefer not to eat a

product that contains any animal or any part of an animal.

According to Schlosser, “The Vegetarian Legal Action Network

recently petitioned the FDA to issue to labeling

requirements for foods that contain natural flavors.” At

this point in time, it is difficult for anyone to refrain

from using animal products or added coloring or any a

specific chemical to do so.

Consumers cannot make educated decisions about a food

product if they do not know the full ingredients list. Some

may be shocked to know that Dannon strawberry yogurt gets

its coloring from Dactylopius coccus Costa, a female insect

that feeds on berries and produces berry colored larvae.

“The insects are collected, dried, and ground into a

pigment. It takes about 70,000 of them to produce a pound

of carmine, which is used to make processed foods look pink,

red, or purple” states Schlosser.

Another example of a misleading ingredient label comes from

Burger King. Its strawberry milk shake lists artificial

strawberry flavor as one of its ingredients. By taking a

closer look, we learn that the following ingredients make up

the artificial strawberry flavoring: amyl acetate, amyl

butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl

acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl

isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil,

diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone,

ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl

heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl

nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin,

hydroxyphenol-2-butanone (10% solution in alcohol),

a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon

essential oil, maltol, 4-methyllacetophenone, methyl

anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl

heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl

salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil,

nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol,

rose, rum ether, y-undecalactone, vanillin and solvent.

Simply stating artificial strawberry flavoring is not

educating consumers on what they are eating and what

possible effects these food products could have on their


Fast food companies have a responsibility to list all of

their ingredients. It is a basic consumer and human right

to know what we are ingesting. McDonalds and other

companies complain that giving away all their ingredients

will result in them losing their secret recipes. As a

culture we must face the reality that these ingredients and

fast food products are making us extremely overweight and

very ill.

McDonalds is the fast food leader of the world. They market

to young children by providing playgrounds, happy meals, and

cartoon characters. Unfortunately, these children do not

know about the horrible side effects that eating fast food

has on their bodies. “On average, Americans now eat about

four servings of french fries every week” says Schlosser.

The increase in portion size and the increase in the volume

of eating at fast food restaurants directly relates to

America’s bulging waist lines.

Recently two over weight teens sued McDonalds because the

teens felt the restaurant neglected to properly inform them

of the side effects its food would have on their weight and

health. Lawsuits such as this one are becoming more and

more popular. There are two sides of this debate, but

regardless of which side you are on one thing can be agreed

upon, fast food is not the most nutritious meal available.

Fast food companies have a moral and social obligation to

their customers. We as a nation have a right to know what

we are eating. Once the truth is finally told and nutrition

labels have all ingredients and chemicals, consumers can

begin to make educated decisions. At that point the blame

would rely solely on the consumer and not on the fast food

company. However, until that point is reached we cannot

expect Americans to understand the impact fast food will

have on their health and well being.

Morgan Spurlock, creator of the documentary Super Size Me,

explains how we live in a toxic, fast and cheap environment.

America is home to over 3 million vending machines and

countless convenient stores. Gas stations sell more candy

and prepared foods than gas. Soda machines are in our

schools and our school lunches are being filled by chain

restaurants such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

The availability of fast food products is overwhelming. The

abundance and mass marketing of fast foods along with the

low cost fare makes it a habit of continually eating these

foods. We grow used to the aroma, textures and tastes.

Often a McDonalds happy meal reminds us of happy childhood

memories when we did not have a care in the world. For many

consumers to stop eating fat food, it would be like breaking

a smoking habit after 20+ years.

The increase in diseases and illnesses is alarming.

Americans are becoming more and more overweight. Obesity is

in line to become the number one cause of preventable death.

Fast food companies have the moral and social obligation to

inform their consumers of all ingredients. It should then

be the consumer’s decision to stop eating this toxic food.

Learning about proper nutrition does not take a degree form

Harvard. It takes the commitment and dedication to truly

change your life once and for all. Nutrition and fitness

are our best defenses against the mounting health care

crisis. According to the National Institute on Aging, “If

exercise could be packed in a pill, it would be the single

most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the

nation.” I whole heartedly agree with their statement.


Lynn VanDyke is the Internet’s leading fitness and nutrition

advisor. Her ebook has been ranked “The best fitness ebook

on the net” by the No Limits ezine. Learn more about her

services and grab her best-selling ebook by visiting:

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