Fast Food Lobbyists Push for More Freedom

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are fast food lobbyists? Why is this so pervasive in American agriculture and the American government?

Fast food lobbyists are people who fight on behalf of fast food corporations to enable them to able to control some aspect of policies by influencing government officials. Fast food lobbyists are incredibly common and effective.

Fast food lobbyists are a huge part of the industry and have substantial effects on all aspects of the business.

Fast Food Lobbyists: The Industry Fights Back

The meatpacking industry and the fast food giants have fought tooth-and-nail against any regulatory efforts to raise standards in the nation’s food supply. During the 1980s, they successfully blocked a federal rule that would have required microbial testing, preferring to rely on the far-less reliable (but far-less costly) method of simply looking at and smelling the meat to determine its safety.

At the behest of industry lobbyists, the Reagan Administration cut spending on health initiatives and appointed former meatpacking executives to run the US Department of Agriculture. Truly, the wolves were guarding the henhouse. These officials gave the industry broad latitude to set its own food-safety standards, largely free from federal oversight. The meat of visibly diseased cattle infected with tapeworms and measles, their bodies covered with bloody abscesses, was allowed to be sold to the American public.

The meat industry has indeed achieved an extraordinary level of control over the nation’s food safety watchdog agencies. Under federal law, the USDA has no legal authority to demand a recall of bad meat. All it can do is pliantly work with the company in question and suggest that it withdraw its products from the market. Most recalls are thus voluntary on the part of the company, not the result of a government order. The USDA must rely only on statistics voluntarily provided by the company to determine how large the outbreak is, while the company is not required to inform the public when a recall is underway.

There are remedies to the unsanitary conditions in America’s slaughterhouses and feedlots. The technology exists to improve the situation. Moreover, a system of performance-based grading would assign grades to meat produced from every meatpacking plant. The grades would be determined by the frequency of contamination at that plant and would be applied to the label of every product that they sold. This would allow consumers to make informed decisions about where they buy their meat. The industry has vehemently opposed the implementation of such a system. It’s not that the meatpackers and the fast food giants believe that cleaning up their act would be impossible; it’s that they don’t want to.

Fast Food Lobbyists Push for More Freedom

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  • How the fast food industry reshaped the American economy
  • How fast food marketing is manipulating you
  • Why the rise of fast food has destroyed family farms across America

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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