Fast Food Nation

Eric Schlosser Character Analysis

The author of the book Fast Food Nation, Schlosser is a journalist based in New York City. He attempts to write a book charting how the rise in the fast-food industry in the United States, and around the world, has changed the way food is farmed, produced, and eaten. Schlosser is very much a character in the book; his accounts are often first-person, though they are bolstered by considerable research, and he refers to himself in the first person frequently—for example, when he tries French fries at a potato factory and finds them “delicious.”

Eric Schlosser Quotes in Fast Food Nation

The Fast Food Nation quotes below are all either spoken by Eric Schlosser or refer to Eric Schlosser. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Diet, Nutrition, and Food Safety Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Mariner edition of Fast Food Nation published in 2012.
Introduction Quotes

The key to a successful franchise, according to many texts on the subject, can be expressed in one word: “uniformity.” Franchises and chain stores strive to offer exactly the same product or service at numerous locations.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Fast food is now so commonplace that it has acquired an air of inevitability, as though it were somehow unavoidable, a fact of modern life. And yet the dominance of the fast food giants was no more preordained than the march of colonial split-levels, golf courses, and man-made lakes across the deserts of the American West.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 1: The Founding Fathers Quotes

The southern California drive-in restaurants of the early 1940s tended to be gaudy and round, topped with pylons, towers, and flashing signs. They were “Circular meccas of neon,” in the words of drive-in historian Michael Witzel, designed to be easily spotted from the road.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

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When I first met my wife . . . this road here was gravel . . . and now it’s blacktop.

Related Characters: Carl Karcher (speaker), Eric Schlosser
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3: Behind the Counter Quotes

Despite all the talk in Colorado about aerospace, biotech, computer software, telecommunications, and other industries of the future, the largest private employer in the state today is the restaurant industry . . . [it] has grown faster than the population.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

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Every Saturday Elisa Zamot gets up at 5:15 in the morning. It’s a struggle, and her head feels groggy as she steps into the shower. Her little sisters, Cookie and Sabrina, are fast asleep in their beds. . . .

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker), Elisa Zamot
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

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The fast food industry pays the minimum wage to a higher proportion of its workers than any other American industry. Consequently, a low minimum wage has long been a crucial part of the fast food industry’s business plan.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4: Success Quotes

As franchises and chain stores opened across the United States, driving along a retail strip became a shopping experience much like strolling down the aisle of a supermarket. Instead of pulling something off the shelf, you pulled into a driveway. The distinctive architecture of each chain became its packaging . . . .

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Related Symbols: Golden Arches
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5: Why the Fries Taste Good Quotes

McDonald’s began to sell J. R. Simplot’s frozen french fries the following year. Customers didn’t notice any difference in taste. And the reduced cost of using a frozen product made french fries one of the most profitable items on the menu—far more profitable than hamburgers.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker), J. R. Simplot
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

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Since 1980, the tonnage of potatoes grown in Idaho has almost doubled, while the average yield per acre has risen by nearly 30 percent. But the extraordinary profits being made from the sale of french fires have barely trickled down to the farmers.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6: On the Range Quotes

Toward sunset we spotted a herd of antelope and roared after them. That damn minivan bounced over the prairie like a horse at full gallop, Hank wild behind the wheel . . . we had a Chrysler engine, power steering, and disk brakes, but the antelope had a much superior grace, making sharp and unexpected turns, bounding effortlessly . . . .

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker), Hank
Related Symbols: Ranchers
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

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Many ranchers now fear that the beef industry is deliberately being restructured along the lines of the poultry industry. They do not want to wind up like chicken growers—who in recent years have become virtually powerless, trapped by debt and by onerous contracts written by the large processors.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ranchers
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

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The suicide rate among ranchers and farmers in the US is now about three times higher than the national average. The issue briefly received attention during the 1980s farm crisis, but has been pretty much ignored ever since. Meanwhile, across rural America, a slow and steady death toll mounts. As the rancher’s traditional way of life is destroyed, so are many of the beliefs that go with it.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ranchers
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7: Cogs in the Great Machine Quotes

Greeley became a company town, dominated by the Monfort family and ruled with a compassionate paternalism. Ken Monfort was a familiar presence at the slaughterhouse. Workers felt comfortable approaching him with suggestions and complaints.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker), The Monfort Family
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

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Far from being a liability, a high turnover rate in the meatpacking industry—as in the fast food industry—also helps maintain a workforce that is harder to unionize and much easier to control.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8: The Most Dangerous Job Quotes

Workers often bring their knives home and spend at least forty minutes a day keeping the edges smooth, sharp, and sanded, with no pits. One IBP worker, a small Guatemalan woman in graying hair, spoke with me . . . telling the story of her life . . . the whole time sharpening big knives in her lap as though she were knitting a sweater.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9: What’s in the Meat Quotes

Every day in the United States, nearly 200,000 people are sickened by foodborne disease, 900 are hospitalized, and fourteen die. . . . Most of these cases are never reported to the authorities or properly diagnosed. The widespread outbreaks that are detected . . . represent a small fraction of the number that actually occurs.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

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The pathogens from infected cattle are spread not only in feedlots, but also at slaughterhouses and hamburger grinders. The slaughterhouse tasks most likely to contaminate meat are the removal of an animal’s hide and the removal of its digestive system . . . if a hide has been inadequately cleaned, chunks of dirt and manure may fall from it onto the meat.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

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In addition to letting meatpacking executives determine when to recall ground beef, how much needs to be recalled, and who should be told about it, for years the USDA allowed these companies to help write the agency’s own press releases about the recalls.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10: Global Realization Quotes

As the fast food industry has grown more competitive in the United States, the major chains have looked to overseas markets for their future growth. The McDonald’s Corporation recently used a new phrase to describe its hopes for foreign conquest: “global realization.”

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

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As people eat more meals outside the home, they consume more calories, less fiber, and more fat. Commodity prices have fallen so low that the fast food industry has greatly increased its portion sizes, without reducing profits, in order to attract customers. The size of a burger has become one of its main selling points.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

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Epilogue: Have It Your Way Quotes

Today’s fast food industry is the culmination of larger social and economic trends. The low price of a fast food hamburger does not reflect its real cost—and should. The profits of the fast food chains have been made possible by losses imposed on the rest of society. The annual cost of obesity alone is now twice as large as the fast food industry’s total revenues.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

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[At the fast food counter], think about where the food came from, about how and where it was made, about what is set in motion by every single fast food purchase, the ripple effect near and far, think about it. Then place your order. Or turn and walk out the door. It’s not too late. Even in this fast food nation, you can still have it your way.

Related Characters: Eric Schlosser (speaker)
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:

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Eric Schlosser Character Timeline in Fast Food Nation

The timeline below shows where the character Eric Schlosser appears in Fast Food Nation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
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Eric Schlosser begins his account of the American fast food industry by focusing on one region of... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, near the Front Range, is one of... (full context)
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Schlosser writes that “this is a book about fast food, the values it embodies, and the... (full context)
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Schlosser begins by focusing on McDonald’s—to many, the symbol of American fast-food culture. McDonald’s is, as... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that he is not interested in making fun of, or writing judgmentally of, people... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Founding Fathers
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Schlosser begins his story with Carl Karcher, the eventual founder of Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurants. Karcher... (full context)
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Schlosser argues that Carl Karcher’s business took off at exactly the same time as other key... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that the McDonald brothers helped innovate what they called the Speedee Service System, after... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that Carl Karcher visited the San Bernardino “Speedee Service” location of the McDonald’s brothers,... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that, for men like Carl Karcher, it was not always a straight line of... (full context)
Chapter 2: Your Trusted Friends
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Schlosser describes a visit to One McDonald’s Plaza in Oak Brook, IL, where he goes to... (full context)
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...an institution of higher learning by becoming part of the company. Both Kroc and Disney, Schlosser continues, were “great salesmen,” who were skilled especially at “selling things to children.” Kroc was... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that, after purchasing McDonald’s franchising rights, Kroc sent a letter to Disney, then already... (full context)
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Schlosser explains Disney’s methods for making cartoons during the 1930s and ‘40s: for Disney, his studio... (full context)
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Disney, as Schlosser notes, was a strong supporter of Republican causes. Ronald Reagan, a former movie star who... (full context)
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Schlosser argues that McDonald’s and Disney were part of a broader shift in the American economy,... (full context)
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Schlosser writes that corporate synergy reached a new zenith in 1996, when McDonald’s and Disney signed... (full context)
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Schlosser describes other situations in which the “synergy” between companies and consumers is more suspect—even somewhat... (full context)
Chapter 3: Behind the Counter
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Schlosser opens the chapter by describing the “sedimentary” layers of Colorado Springs—its development from an old,... (full context)
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Schlosser traces the economic changes that have taken place in Colorado Springs over the past 50... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that Colorado Springs now has 21 McDonald’s (at the time of writing), and describes... (full context)
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Schlosser turns to the story of Elisa Zamot, a sixteen-year-old worker at a McDonald’s in south... (full context)
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Schlosser introduces the industrial-efficiency concept of “throughput,” “the speed and volume of a factory’s flow,” which... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that Elisa Zamot, who works at the McDonald’s in Colorado Springs, works weekends and... (full context)
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But Schlosser does describe the safety conditions in many fast-food restaurants as sub-par, especially when it comes... (full context)
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Schlosser also describes the disconnect between the boring, unglamorous, often physically demanding work that recent immigrants... (full context)
Chapter 4: Success
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Schlosser follows Matthew Kabong, a pizza delivery man in Pueblo, Colorado (40 miles south of Colorado... (full context)
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Schlosser goes on to explain how the franchising system, so important to fast food in America,... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that Ray Kroc encouraged “tenacity” and “competitiveness” among his early franchisees in the 1960s... (full context)
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...and fees franchisees must pay) and a good, safe investment for the franchisees themselves. But Schlosser argues that these statistics are misleading, since only those franchises still in business are included... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that franchises are beneficiaries of major legal loopholes, which enable the corporations to whom... (full context)
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Schlosser closes the chapter by writing that Feamster is a relatively rare success story in franchising.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Why the Fries Taste Good
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Schlosser traces the life story of another figure, one of the most famous and richest men... (full context)
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Schlosser believes that potato farmers in Idaho, who hope to sell their crops to one of... (full context)
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Schlosser writes that McDonald’s fries used to be made in beef tallow, giving them a taste... (full context)
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Schlosser visits several plants where flavors and scents are made, and reports on what he sees.... (full context)
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Schlosser notes, with some irony, that the line between “artificial” and “natural” flavors can often be... (full context)
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Schlosser closes the chapter with his description of a tour of a potato factory in American... (full context)
Chapter 6: On the Range
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Schlosser describes his first meeting with Hank, a rancher in Colorado Springs, who takes Schlosser on... (full context)
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Schlosser describes the arc of the meatpacking business over the course of the last century. At... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that this consolidation in beef mimics that which happened in the middle and end... (full context)
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Schlosser shifts back to the meatpacking industry, and notes that other changes have occurred in the... (full context)
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Schlosser closes the chapter by noting the impact of disruption in the ranching economy. Colorado, he... (full context)
Chapter 7: Cogs in the Great Machine
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Schlosser introduces Greeley, a “factory town” in Colorado with one primary industry—meatpacking—that covers the town in... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that, in Greeley, the meatpacking plant was originally worked as a small business and... (full context)
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But, as Schlosser writes, the rise of Iowa Beef Packers (IBP) changed meatpacking “and proved as influential as... (full context)
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Schlosser then tracks the changes in meatpacking during the 1970s and 1980s—the Monfort plant in Greeley... (full context)
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Schlosser notes “about one-quarter of all meatpacking workers in Iowa and Nebraska are illegal immigrants.” This... (full context)
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Schlosser closes the chapter by describing the town of Lexington, in Nebraska, known now by some... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Most Dangerous Job
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Schlosser begins the chapter by describing an actual visit to a meatpacking plant, “one of the... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that, although a great number of machines have been introduced to the meatpacking process... (full context)
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...might get lodged in or fall into a machine, or “succumb to hydrogen sulfide fumes.” Schlosser notes that, despite the seriousness of a vast array of injuries that occur in meatpacking... (full context)
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Schlosser describes the overall state of safety inspections, supposed to be conducted by OSHA, at plants... (full context)
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Schlosser states that OSHA is essentially in the pocket of meatpacking plants, aided by a government... (full context)
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Schlosser closes the chapter by describing the various injuries suffered over several decades by a man... (full context)
Chapter 9: What’s in the Meat
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Schlosser tells the story of Lee Harding, a 22-year-old man living in Pueblo who, in 1997,... (full context)
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Schlosser describes the nature of these outbreaks in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and why food... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that, in the first half of the 20th century, hamburger-grade beef had a bad... (full context)
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Schlosser identifies several factors that most likely led to the Jack in the Box E. coli... (full context)
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Schlosser argues that the beef industry, since Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in 1906, has sought to... (full context)
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But Schlosser writes that he believes some progress can be made, even within a system where government... (full context)
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Schlosser notes the difficulties the USDA faces in demanding recalls of meat products—even beef that has... (full context)
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Schlosser further notes that USDA inspectors, when they are present in meatpacking plants, are often so... (full context)
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Schlosser ends the chapter with two rather sobering facts. First, a large amount of cheap beef,... (full context)
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Second, Schlosser writes that the cleanliness of beef production, although vastly important, cannot make beef preparation in... (full context)
Chapter 10: Global Realization
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Schlosser begins this chapter by describing Plauen, a smaller German city in a region called Vogtland,... (full context)
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Schlosser notes that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and increasing in the 1990s, fast-food companies in... (full context)
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Schlosser tells of the most “bizarre” experience he had during the three years writing the book:... (full context)
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Schlosser describes the impact of “Americanization” of food on global health. Fast-food is low in fiber... (full context)
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Schlosser mentions another case, which was litigated throughout the 1990s, in which London Greenpeace activists produced... (full context)
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Schlosser closes the chapter by writing that life in Plauen now is far different from what... (full context)
Epilogue: Have It Your Way
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Schlosser begins his Epilogue by noting that not everyone in the food production and fast-food industries... (full context)
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Schlosser argues explicitly what has been implicit throughout the book: that “market forces,” used by fast-food... (full context)
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Schlosser ends with a point that, though simple, resonates back throughout the book: purchasing fast food... (full context)