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Don't Blame the Eater

Page history last edited by Jared 12 years, 8 months ago

Don't Blame the Eater

By David Zinczenko
Published: Saturday, November 23, 2002


If ever there were a newspaper headline custom-made for Jay Leno's monologue, this was it. Kids taking on McDonald's this week, suing the company for making them fat. Isn't that like middle-aged men suing Porsche for making them get speeding tickets? Whatever happened to personal responsibility?


I tend to sympathize with these portly fast-food patrons, though. Maybe that's because I used to be one of them.


I grew up as a typical mid-1980's latchkey kid. My parents were split up, my dad off trying to rebuild his life, my mom working long hours to make the monthly bills. Lunch and dinner, for me, was a daily choice between McDonald's, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pizza Hut. Then as now, these were the only available options for an American kid to get an affordable meal. By age 15, I had packed 212 pounds of torpid teenage tallow on my once lanky 5-foot-10 frame.


Then I got lucky. I went to college, joined the Navy Reserves and got involved with a health magazine. I learned how to manage my diet. But most of the teenagers who live, as I once did, on a fast-food diet won't turn their lives around: They've crossed under the golden arches to a likely fate of lifetime obesity. And the problem isn't just theirs -- it's all of ours.


Before 1994, diabetes in children was generally caused by a genetic disorder -- only about 5 percent of childhood cases were obesity-related, or Type 2, diabetes. Today, according to the National Institutes of Health, Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 30 percent of all new childhood cases of diabetes in this country.


Not surprisingly, money spent to treat diabetes has skyrocketed, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that diabetes accounted for $2.6 billion in health care costs in 1969. Today's number is an unbelievable $100 billion a year.


Shouldn't we know better than to eat two meals a day in fast-food restaurants? That's one argument. But where, exactly, are consumers -- particularly teenagers -- supposed to find alternatives? Drive down any thoroughfare in America, and I guarantee you'll see one of our country's more than 13,000 McDonald's restaurants. Now, drive back up the block and try to find someplace to buy a grapefruit.


Complicating the lack of alternatives is the lack of information about what, exactly, we're consuming. There are no calorie information charts on fast-food packaging, the way there are on grocery items. Advertisements don't carry warning labels the way tobacco ads do. Prepared foods aren't covered under Food and Drug Administration labeling laws. Some fast-food purveyors will provide calorie information on request, but even that can be hard to understand.


For example, one company's Web site lists its chicken salad as containing 150 calories; the almonds and noodles that come with it (an additional 190 calories) are listed separately. Add a serving of the 280-calorie dressing, and you've got a healthy lunch alternative that comes in at 620 calories. But that's not all. Read the small print on the back of the dressing packet and you'll realize it actually contains 2.5 servings. If you pour what you've been served, you're suddenly up around 1,040 calories, which is half of the government's recommended daily calorie intake. And that doesn't take into account that 450-calorie super-size Coke.


Make fun if you will of these kids launching lawsuits against the fast-food industry, but don't be surprised if you're the next plaintiff. As with the tobacco industry, it may be only a matter of time before state governments begin to see a direct line between the $1 billion that McDonald's and Burger King spend each year on advertising and their own swelling health care costs.


And I'd say the industry is vulnerable. Fast-food companies are marketing to children a product with proven health hazards and no warning labels. They would do well to protect themselves, and their customers, by providing the nutrition information people need to make informed choices about their products. Without such warnings, we'll see more sick, obese children and more angry, litigious parents. I say, let the deep-fried chips fall where they may.


David Zinczenko is editor in chief of Men's Health magazine.



Comments (4)

perrinatisha said

at 12:42 pm on Sep 27, 2011

Team 1:

Dont Blame the Eater:

The growing rate of obesity and type-2 diabetes today can be traced to the lack of nutritional and health information provided by fast food restaurants. When we walk into these restaurants be responsible, be assertive, and be knowledgeable because a quick and cheap meal, may also mean a quick and cheap death.

Yashvir Riar said

at 1:04 pm on Sep 27, 2011

Modified: Zinczenko analyzes personal knowledge and corporate responsibility in regards to the fast food industry by outlining the negative health implications in today's society. In "Don't Blame the Eater", he proves this by using logos to describe the many negative health implications of fast food.

Nour Ghamrawi said

at 1:02 pm on Sep 27, 2011

Team 3: Ahmed, Nour, Samey,Toma', Derek

In “Don’t Blame the Eater,” David Zincenko argues that the hazardous overconsumption of fast food products is a battle between corporate responsibility, companies providing their consumers with necessary and essential information regarding the effects of their product, and personal responsibility, individuals’ ability to choose what’s best for themselves. He argues this point by using logical appeal and comparing the food industry to the tobacco industry.

Yashvir Riar said

at 1:03 pm on Sep 27, 2011

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