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
www.strength-training-woman.com. 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
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: