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Fast Food Industry in America, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1732

Research Paper

Should the Fast Food Industry be blamed for Obesity in America?

There are different consensus regarding the definition of Fast Food, with the American Heritage Dictionary defining it as inexpensive food such as hamburgers and chicken that are prepared and served quickly, while the Census of Retail Trade sees it as the serving of food without tables compared to legislators in Los Angeles in imposing fines classify the entity as food establishments that have limited menu, prepares food in advance or heated quickly, uses disposables wrappings or containers and operates without table service (Abdollah, 2007).

The number of fast food in the United States have doubled since the 1970’s compared to the slower growth rate for restaurants, according to the  Census  of Retail Trade, but in the same period the prevalence of obesity and obesity related diseases have increased rapidly according to Chou, Grossman and Saffer (2004). This has led to the critical question of whether the fast food industry should be blamed for obesity in America.

It seems policy makers in several cities across the country according to McBride (2008(, and Mair et al. (2005), believe that this is the case in that they have placed restrictions on the availability and content of fast foods by making it a requirement that they post the calorific contents of their meals for consumers to see before purchasing.

However, their needs to be scientific evidence to establish this conclusion and by imposing these conditions so that consumers can become aware of what they are ingesting, it could be argued that they should be blamed if they knowingly consumed the contents of foods which are likely to cause them to become obese in the long run.

Critics of the Fast Food Industry points to the features of fast foods; like low monetary and time cost, large portions, and high calorie density, according to Spurlock (2004), and Schlosser (2002), and insist that they make the foods less healthy and are the main reasons for the increase in obesity in America.

Logically, these companies cannot remain in business perpetually if the consuming public care not patronizing there products, and the responsibility to purchase and become obese or not purchase and be free from the disease, must surely rest in part with the customers.

According to the CBS News (2009), everyday nearly one-third of United States children aged 4-19 eat fast foods which enable them to  pack on 6 pounds per child every year and increases the risk of obesity as was found out in a study of 6, 212 students. The propensity for becoming obese according to Dr. David Ludwig was not surprising due to the billions being spent annually by advertisers in the industry on fast foods.

It could be argued that the fast food companies are responsible for the increase in the obesity, as a result of the power of their advertising dollar, but the study conducted lacked scientific evidence, especially with regards to the weights of children before there were fast food establishments in their areas, and afterwards, as well as the frequency at which they consume from these business compare to having home meals during any established period.

Parents should also not be excluded from the blame, in that they should have been responsible enough to know what constitute healthy meals and implement it regimentally within their homes, so that their children can grow without developing obesity.

Government should also take responsibility rather than the fast food exclusively, in that it should have been monitoring activities in the operating environment, in terms of the health statistics, development of diseases and  the reasons for these occurrences, by conducting scientific research to find and establish empirical evidence  that could be use to dissuade the fast food industries from continuing in their unhealthy food preparations, while making millions of dollars in profits at the same time.

Their actions may even reduce the types and focus of the advertising that are used to target the different segments of the market.

Had the government not fallen down on the job, it would have taken actions before the 2009 data was published, according to CBS News (2009).This report informed the public that 15% of United States youngsters and almost one-third of adults are obese. This statistic was supported by a study conducted by Kelly Burrell, a Yale University Obesity Research Expert, which showed convincingly, that fast foods contribute to the increase calorie intake and obesity in children, but a class action lawsuit attempting to incriminate Mac Donald’s Corporation for making people fat, failed in the courts, and negated the impact of the study to an extent (CBS News, 2009).

The government and fast food companies then began to take actions to address the issues, with the former instituting policies to limit soft drinks and snack food sales in schools and to curb fast food advertisements aimed at children.

Fast foods companies having become aware of what lawsuits can do to their revenue generation and refusing to accept the blame for the obesity in the population, sought o protect itself by financing lobbyist to get legislation in congress to procure legal immunity from obesity, according to Buckley (2003).

It was instructive that in the Palmer v. MacDonald case, the judge in summation stated that the fast food industry is not to be blamed because the plaintiff could not prove that the danger was not apparent to the average consumer, that the product was unreasonable dangerous, that obesity was caused by the food in question and that the harm would not have occurred had the warning being given (Mello, Rim, & Studdert, 2003).

This ruling will be used as a precedent by fast food company defense lawyers in all future cases brought before the courts to penalize them for knowingly causing obesity to develop at such rapid rate across the country.

Legally and scientifically, it has become difficult to place the blame at the feet of the fast food industry operators and it will take years and specific research to develop the data to specifically answer the questions the courts required answered to allow it to rule against these powerful industrial giants. The problem is made even worse by their pursuit of legal immunity to protect themselves and the billions of dollars they have at their disposal to pay lobbyist and influence legislators to rule on their behalf.

The fight will continue to try to blame the fast food industry, as critics have begun to liken the situation to the cigarette companies’ debacle. These companies knowingly distributed carcinogenic products to millions and have cause the loss of millions of lives, and the advocates  are hoping that the tide will change as it has now with cigarette manufacturers (CBS News, 2009).

It could be argued that the reason many lawyers are attacking the fast food companies could be because of the financial returns, and not really the concerns of those that are suffering from obesity. Actions like this may also lead consumers, parents and the government as well as others in the environment who contribute the raw materials the fast food utilized to produce the unhealthy meals, to feel that they can be absolved from being participants in process of causing obesity to have so badly affected the nation’s health status since the 1970’s.

The fast food industry is fighting back according to CBS News (2009), in that its advocates are saying that the same way consumers are responsible for smoking, they are also responsible for the type and quality of foods that they decide to eat, and should accept the consequences of their actions.

It is also difficult, according to Mello, et al. (2003) to overcome the fact that if consumers knowingly or reasonable should know that they are eating unhealthy foods on the account of their free will, to blame any fast food company. The consumers cannot have it both ways and expect the laws of the country to protect them. The judge says it quite appropriately in commenting on the landmark Pelman v. McDonald case, that if consumers nonetheless choose to satiate their appetite with a surfeit of McDonald’s supersize products, they cannot expect to be exempted from the blame of becoming obese in the long run (Mello, et al. 2003).

In the final analysis, even if redresses are gained by many in the courts like what obtains in the cigarette industry, the major responsibility must rest with the consuming public as well as parents, who should inform and educate themselves on what constitute healthy consumption patterns and institute it consistently, until it becomes almost a cultural norm, so that their children, future generations and the country at large, can escape the afflictions and tremendous human resource losses that has been associated with obesity.

The government has taken responsibility by imposing advertising and the sales of high calorie foods restrictions in the schools, and the fast foods industry, in light of the negative publicity and its impact on their corporate image and revenue generation capacities, has taken steps to improve their food quality, despite seeking immunity from obesity and obesity related lawsuits from congress through well paid and positioned lobbyist.

The impact of the ameliorative actions from all the major players players if continued, should serve to reduce the growth of obesity in the nation and enable greater percentages of healthy children and adults population, to develop and serve the country well in terms of its developmental needs in all sectors going forward.

Reference

Abdollah, T., (2006). A Strict Order For Fast Foods Los Angeles Times September 10, 2007 A-1

Spurlock, M., (2004). Super Size Me Documentary  Film Produced by The Con in association with studies on Hudson

Schlosser, E., (2002). Fast Food Nation : The Dark Side of the All American Meal  Harper Perennial January 2002

Chou, Shin-Yi, Grossman, M., Saffer, H., (2004). An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity Results from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems Journal of Health Economics (2004) 23 (3) pp.565- 587

Mair, J., Pierce, M., Teret, S., (2005). The Use of Zoning to Restrict Fast Foods : A Potential Strategy to Constrict Obesity The  Center for Law and Public Health at John Hopkins and Georgetown Universities October, 2005

McBride, S., (2008). Exiting the Happy Meal Wall Street Journal July 30, 2008

CBS News (2009). Fast Foods Linked to Child Obesity Health Watch Extracted from www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/05/health/main591325.shtml on 10/08/11

Buckley, N., (2003). Restaurants Seek Cover from Obesity Law Suits Financial Times June 19, 2003

Mello, M.M., Rimm, E.B., Studdert, D.M., (2003). The Mc Lawsuit :The Fast Food Industry and Legal Accounting for Obesity Health Affairs 22, No.6  (2003) pp. 207-216

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