Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know about Fast Food

Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know about Fast Food

by Charles Wilson, Eric Schlosser


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Kids love fast food. And the fast food industry definitely loves kids. It couldn’t survive without them. Did you know that the biggest toy company in the world is McDonald’s? It’s true. In fact, one out of every three toys given to a child in the United States each year is from a fast food restaurant.

Not only has fast food reached into the toy industry, it’s moving into our schools. One out of every five public schools in the United States now serves brand name fast food. But do kids know what they’re eating? Where do fast food hamburgers come from? And what makes those fries taste so good?

When Eric Schlosser’s best-selling book, Fast Food Nation, was published for adults in 2001, many called for his groundbreaking insight to be shared with young people. Now Schlosser, along with co-writer Charles Wilson, has investigated the subject further, uncovering new facts children need to know.

In Chew On This, they share with kids the fascinating and sometimes frightening truth about what lurks between those sesame seed buns, what a chicken ‘nugget’ really is, and how the fast food industry has been feeding off children for generations.

Featuring cover art by M. Wartella.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618593941
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/23/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 318
Sales rank: 32,595
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile: 1110L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Charles Wilson grew up in West Virginia and has written for several newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He has worked on the staff of The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine and has rounded up beef cattle on horseback at his uncle’s ranch.

Eric Schlosser is a correspondent for the Atlantic. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, the Nation, and The New Yorker. He has received a National Magazine Award and a Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for reporting. In 1998 Schlosser wrote an investigative piece on the fast food industry for Rolling Stone. What began as a two-part article for the magazine turned into the New York Times bestseller Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. His other books include Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market and Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food, a children’s book he cowrote with Charles Wilson.

Read an Excerpt

Pull open the glass door and feel the rush of cool air. Step inside. Look at the backlit color pictures of food above the counter, look at the cardboard ads for the latest Disney movie, get in line, and place your order. Hand over some money. Put the change back in your pocket. Watch teenagers in blue-and- gold uniforms busy working in the kitchen. Moments later, grab the plastic tray with your food, find an empty table, and sit down. Unwrap the burger, squirt ketchup on the fries, stick the plastic straw through the hole in the lid of your drink. Pick up the burger and dig in.

The whole experience of eating at a fast-food restaurant has become so familiar, so routine, that we take it for granted. It has become just another habit, like brushing your teeth before bed. We do it without even thinking about it—and that’s the problem.

Every day about one out of fourteen Americans eats at a McDonald’s. Every month about nine out of ten American children visit one. McDonald’s has become the most popular fast-food chain in the world—and by far the most powerful. In 1968 there were about 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants, all of them in the United States. Now there are more than 31,000 McDonald’s, selling Happy Meals in 120 countries, from Istanbul, Turkey, to Papeete, Tahiti. In the United States, McDonald’s buys more processed beef, chicken, pork, apples, and potatoes than any other company. It spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other company that sells food. As a result, it is America’s most famous food brand. The impact of McDonald’s on the way we live today is truly mind-boggling. The Golden Arches are now more widely recognized than the Christian cross.

Despite McDonald’s fame and all the money it spends on advertising, every day the vast majority of its customers don’t plan to eat there. Most fast-food visits are impulsive. The decision to buy fast food is usually made at the last minute, without much thought. People generally don’t leave the house in the morning saying, “I’m going to make sure to eat some fast food today.” Most of the time, they’re just walking down the sidewalk or driving down the road, not thinking about anything in particular. Maybe they’re hungry; maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re in a hurry and don’t have time to cook. And then they see a great big fast-food sign—the Golden Arches, the red-and-blue of a Domino’s pizza box, the picture of Colonel Sanders—and they suddenly think, “Hey, I want some of that.” So they stop to eat fast food. They do it because they feel like it. They just can’t resist the impulse.

The point of this book is to take that strong impulse we all feel— our hunger for sweet, salty, fatty fast foods—and make you think about it. Chew On This will tell you where fast food comes from, who makes it, what’s in it, and what happens when you eat it. This is a book about fast food and the world it has made.

Food is one of the most important things you’ll ever buy. And yet most people never bother to think about their food and where it comes from. People spend a lot more time worrying about what kind of blue jeans to wear, what kind of video games to play, what kind of computers to buy. They compare the different models and styles, they talk to friends about the various options, they read as much as they can before making a choice. But those purchases don’t really matter. When you get tired of old blue jeans, video games, and computers, you can just give them away or throw them out.

The food you eat enters your body and literally becomes part of you. It helps determine whether you’ll be short or tall, weak or strong, thin or fat. It helps determine whether you will enjoy a long, healthy life or die young. Food is of fundamental importance. So why is it that most people don’t think about fast food and don’t know much about it?

The simple answer is this: the companies that sell fast food don’t want you to think about it. They don’t want you to know where it comes from and how it’s made. They just want you to buy it.

Have you ever seen a fast-food ad that shows the factories where French fries are made? Ever seen a fast-food ad that shows the slaughterhouses where cattle are turned into ground beef? Ever seen an ad that tells you what’s really in your fast-food milk shake and why some strange-sounding chemicals make it taste so good? Ever seen an ad that shows overweight, unhealthy kids stuffing their faces with greasy fries at a fast-food restaurant? You probably haven’t. But you’ve probably seen a lot of fast-food commercials that show thin, happy children having a lot of fun.

People have been eating since the beginning of time. But they’ve only been eating Chicken McNuggets since 1983. Fast food is a recent invention. During the past thirty years, fast food has spread from the United States to every corner of the globe. A busssssiness that began with a handful of little hot dog and hamburger stands in southern California now sells the all- American meal—a hamburger, French fries, and soda—just about everywhere. Fast food is now sold at restaurants and drive-throughs, at baseball stadiums, high schools, elementary schools, and universities, on cruise ships, trains, and airplanes, at Kmarts, Wal-Marts, and even the cafeterias of children’s hospitals. In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food. In 2005, they spent about $134 billion on fast food. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on college education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, and recorded music— combined.

Fast food may look like the sort of food people have always eaten, but it’s different. It’s not the kind of food you can make in your kitchen from scratch. Fast food is something radically new. Indeed, the food we eat has changed more during the past thirty years than during the previous thirty thousand years.

In the pages that follow, you’ll learn how the fast-food business got started. You’ll learn how the fast-food chains try to get kids into their restaurants, how they treat kids working in their kitchens, how they make their food. And you’ll learn what can happen when you eat too much of it. These are things you really need to know. Why? Because fast food is heavily advertised to kids and often prepared by workers who are kids themselves. This is an industry that both feeds and feeds off the young.

For the most part, fast food tastes pretty good. That’s one of the main reasons people like to eat it. Fast food has been carefully designed to taste good. It’s also inexpensive and convenient. But the Happy Meals, two- for-one deals, and free refills of soda give a false sense of how much fast food actually costs. The real price never appears on the menu.

Hundreds of millions of people eat fast food every day without giving it much thought. They just unwrap their hamburgers and dig in. An hour or so later, when the burger’s all gone and the wrapper’s been tossed into the garbage, the whole meal has already been forgotten. Chew on this: people should know what lies beneath the shiny, happy surface of every fast-food restaurant. They should know what really lurks between those sesame seed buns. As the old saying goes: you are what you eat.

CHEW ON THIS: EVERYTHING YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FAST FOOD by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. Copyright (c) 2006 by Eric Schlosser. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
MsMillion More than 1 year ago
McDonald's has become the most powerful, popular, and potent fast food chain in the world. Their ubiquitous symbol, the golden arches, is now more widely recognized than the Christian cross. McDonald's spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other brand of food to ensure than each and every American (especially small children) not only recognize the golden arches, but also associate them with clean, cheap, convenient food and skinny, laughter-filled, satisfied eaters. Food is the most common and important thing we ever purchase, but most people never think (literally) about what they buy to put in their mouths. How many diet plans include ways to avoid "mindless eating"? The food we eat plainly becomes part of us as soon as it enters our bodies so why is it that we don't know much about it-especially when it comes to fast food? Why is it that parents meticulously worry and think about every aspect of their child's life except what they are buying them for dinner after the little league baseball game? Eric Schlosser believes that when it comes to fast-food, there is a simple answer, "the companies that sell fast food don't want you to think about it. They don't want to know where it comes from or how it's made. They just want you to buy it" (3). His purpose for writing this book is to have open and honest documentation of the where's, how's and when's of fast food so that younger consumers (Chew on This is geared toward a younger audience whereas Fast Food Nation toward adults) can make educated food choices and know exactly what they are putting in their bodies. The answers aren't pretty, but they are painstakingly researched and written in an interesting, "gross-young-readers-out" style that will leave you wishing this book were in the fiction section. "Ewww don't tell me, I don't want to know!" so says most fast food eaters when Chew on This or Fast Food Nation is mentioned. But, how many of those "not-want-to-knowers" would say those same words when a doctor was getting ready to explain what he was injecting into them or their child? Americans expect, and even demand, to be informed about almost every aspect of their lives from the new government health care proposal to every minuscule mineral in their child's Fred Flintstone Vitamin. Parents have the ability to keep in contact with their teenager at any given time via texting, calling, skyping, emailing, facebooking, myspacing, chatting, etc.-they even have the ability to trace the exact location of their child through a mobile GPS device. However, if the quadrants showed their teenager pulling into the local McDonald's, they would be oblivious to real physical safety of their equally unaware, still-growing and developing child. Chew on This will open your eyes and close your mouth to your daily fast food fix. Even though you might not want to know, the truth is that you need to know. Then, like in all other aspects of our lives, make an informed decision about eating that next box of "chicken" McNuggets or feeding them morsel by greasy, edible pasted, fried, frozen, reheated, hormoned, morsel to your child while she distractedly walks her latest Disney figurine across the porous playground table top.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We read this in my English class and it is phenomenal everyone in the class loved it. I would recomend it to all ages
randomwriterCR More than 1 year ago
In the bestselling book, ¿Chew On This,¿ authors Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson unmask what really lies in the fast food industry- secrets that many restaurant chains wish not to reveal. This book highlights different aspects of fast food, such as its history, the way it attracts children, the way fries are made, the negative effects of soda, the way animals are turned into meat at slaughterhouses, the customers, and the expansion of different restaurant chains. While sharing stunning facts about the fast food, Schlosser and Wilson intend on creating awareness in people and to persuade ordinary citizens to put less money (and therefore power) into the fast food industry. I liked it how the authors did great research and used great word choice, as well as provide real-life examples as to how fast food affected everyday people. However, I disliked it when the writers used McDonald¿s as a prime example; there were probably many other restaurants that had the same issue, and the authors could have been a little more specific and provide evidence that all of fast food has its issues. ¿Chew on This¿ is a great novel for any given person to read, because a lot of people are unaware exactly how many negatives fast food has. Overall, this is a great book to read because it reveals how fast food industries go about doing their business, and the many dangers that lie within it.
kaycart More than 1 year ago
This book definately gives you something to think about before you eat your next fast food meal or put something in your grocery cart. The content of the book is centered around foods that you would typically encounter in the fast food industry including the potatoes and beef, but many of the things you learn about fast food roll over into the food production industry as well. The book opens with the history of fast food and that in itself is an interesting section. It is interesting how fast food developed from drive ins that used real silverware and glasses with carhops to a walk up restaurant that is what we are familiar with today. It is also interesting to see the development of McDonald's alongside Disney World. It was also interesting to see how the original owners of McDonalds ended up losing out when they sold the rights to their idea. It is amazing how that one restaurant has shaped the modern food industry and turned into a manufacturing machine that doesn't consider the animals it produces or the people who work hard to make the food we eat. It is also an eye opening look at the amount of control just a few business have on our food and the influence they have on Congress. The book is well written and doesn't get bogged down in facts, but has the research and data to back up the message. I suggest it for anyone who eats out on a regular basis or for the person who does the lion's share of grocery shopping for a household.
RRALSTONMC44 More than 1 year ago
"Chew on This" is an eye-opener into the world of fast food. As Schlosser promises, he showed me everything I did not want to know about fast food. The book made me look at my own dining habits, and then showed me why I should reform them. What I enjoyed about the book was that it had a great flow, from page to page, chapter to chapter, and that Schlosser didn't brutally slant the information he gave with his own feelings. Of course, his negative feelings toward fast food industries were evident in the pages, but the book seemed to present the information, and allowed me to make up my own mind on whether eating (literally) crap was something I should continue to do. I also liked that "Chew on This" was edgy enough to make me pay attention, but not too disgusting to make me put the book down. Schlosser does a great job of revealing the aspects of fast food I had never considered or questioned, like its roots, brutal effects on Native Americans, or the number of chemicals in one ingredient of a milk shake. I definitely recommend this book to anybody looking to become informed about what they are eating every time they step under the golden arches.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is well written, factual, and flows well -- but not so cluttered with research that you won't enjoy it. After reading how the fast food industry has evolved, I feel angered and betrayed by their greed and selfishness in exploiting our taste buds. They really have no feeling for the people they are enticing and the eventual health problems fast food produces; they just want to make money. The really sad thing is the way they have targeted children in their quest for wealth. You definitely should read this so that you know why all that fast food tastes so good and so similar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seriously? Oh yeah, only fast food chains do these sorts of things, not other restaurants or companies that supply food-meat- to people. I would use this book as an example of how we need to refine our critical thinking skills. This book has many great points, but the premise is oversimplified. The other things I find disturbing is that sit down restaurant food is often more unhealthy than some fast food. Just look at the nutrition information for a few regular sit down chain restaurants and see what I mean.
CGinRALCC More than 1 year ago
This book is all about fast-food and how it has changed our history and economy throughout time. If you are interested in finding about the truth of fast-food, such as where it comes from, and what is really in it, then you will find this book very intriguing. I couldn't stop reading. I highly recommend it.
blilind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I give Chew on This 3 out of 5 stars. This book was a great eye opener on how chains can change towns and cities. It was so interesting to read how some of the most powerful restaurants and stores are run by teenagers. The book had many facts that were amazing to learn. I don't think this would be a book many teens would choose as their choice to read. Some parts were too full of dry facts.
jyasinchuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With passages from his adult-oriented and highly successful "Fast Food Nation", Schlosser shares more on the dirt about the fast and junk food industry. His intended audience: the young adult crowd. Extensive research and endnotes really lend limitless credence and accountability to the book. And, yes, the Golden Arches are now more recognized than the Christian cross (according to Schlosser's relentless research)! Recommended for Grades 8-12. "Chew on This" has great potential as a resource for foods, marketing, and physical and health education classes at the secondary levels.
ewyatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It'll be a long time before I visit a fast food restaurant or eat meat again after reading this book. The book, from the author of Fast Food Nation, is an exploration of the founding and development of fast food restaurants. The ways that these companies market, advertise, and prepare the food that is served is explored. The health impact on Americans and those world wide from the changing diet and consuming fast food is included as well. The narrative is engaging, but seemed jarring at times when the second person was used.
TheMightyQuinn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A kid's version of Fast Food Nation, this book includes the 'dark side' of fast food. Not limited to the exploitation of child consumers, beef production, health risks, taste factories and the history of the hamburger. Many good stories about the people behind the people behind the counter (e.g. Ray Kroc) and the authors do a nice job of tying what they are talking about to a real live kid example as well as including interesting photos. One drawback to this book: by the time kids are interested in this stuff wouldn't they rather read Fast Food Nation? Recommend for 4th-8th grades.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book for one of my classes in school. I learned a lot from it and highly recommened it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book for fast food eaters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I actually NEVER eat fast food. And k refuse to. Its not heathly AT ALL. My step dad wants to eat it all the time. And i hate it. Hes all like" its liams birthday and we got kicked oout of the house for 3 hours, so we have no time at all! Must eat MCdonalaods! Yeah i dont even care how to spell it. I rate this five stars! Better then most ones, because it has a pooint. Oops i did 2 os on point. The right way is point. I really have a bone to pic with most fast food places. Mostley because my step dad wanys to make us unheathy fat jerks! Ugg i hate him! Anyway i wont even eat sonic, the inside is like bugar king. When i ws littke some how i was willing to get fat! And i called it booger king! And ruby be like"gurll why u akin so cra cra ? When i totally was. But i was so cute and chubbyish in 2008! Omg i had these bangs. And they rocked! If u ask me ide tell u twulight is a donut! And im dumb... hope u had happy school! Or summer wth i dont care
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the best. It gives you great information about fast food restaurants and the history about it. This is one of my books for my 8th grade summer eading books. Let me know how the book is. I strongly recommend this book for you. Worth it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey i need to read this for my summer reading homework for 7th grade. There are other book options but is this book worth it. How many pages are there? Please help
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cool facts about fast food! Awesome book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago