Dr. J Elizabeth Clark
The Food Industry
In today’s society, fast food is an integral part of our lives. It is a huge part of the American culture and is one of the ways that we are identified. We have become so dependent on fast foods that we do not have the time to prepare meals and with this we don’t take the time to think of the foods that we put into our bodies and the dangers they may cause. This perhaps is the reason for so many obese Americans. My paper will be focusing on The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and the film Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock and how they both clearly demonstrate the dangers of the food industry and its attitudes towards its consumers.
This problem isn’t new to consumers as we see demonstrated in the Jungle that takes place in the 1930’s and then in today’s society with the fast food establishment of McDonalds. These two sources demonstrate that the food industry’s only concern is self interest and profit.
According to the Webster’s New Dictionary, an industry is defined as a branch of manufacture or trade, or a factory system. Therefore, the food industry is a business that provides or manufactures food whether processed or ready made. The Jungle presents the dangers of the food industry during the early 1900’s, while the film Super Size Me exhibits the dangers of the food industry today. The Jungle and Super Size Me are alike because they are both dealing with the food industry: one is dealing with the processing of meat in dirty, unsanitary and unthinkable conditions and the other deals with the impact that McDonald’s Super Sized Meals have on Americans health and increased obesity in America. In The Jungle, the food industry did not have a good relationship with its consumers or its workers. I say this because if they had a good relationship, the industry would not have been selling unhealthy and unsanitary meats to the consumers under false pretenses.
As we see in The Jungle, this quote speaks of the deceit of the industry towards its consumers. “Any day, however, one might see sharp-honed and shaggy haired creatures running with sheep- and yet what a job you would have, to get the public to believe that a good part of what it buys for lamb and mutton is really goats flesh!” (90). This shows dishonesty on the part of the industry towards its consumers. Was this a sign of respect on the part of the industry? No, I think not. The way that the industry sold spoiled, rotten and unsanitary meats to its consumers leads me to ask the questions, why would the government allow the meat industry to be so dirty and filthy? Why did Upton Sinclair have to be the one to expose the dirty secrets of the industry? I think that the government is just as responsible as the industry. The health inspectors, or in this case the meat inspectors, were in the pockets of the Packingtown Industry. They were being bribed to turn a blind eye to all the unsanitary things taking place.
Also, here we see that Mr. Sinclair shows us that all parts of the animals, including the unclean parts were used.” They don’t waste anything here; they use everything about the pig except the squeal!” (28). All parts, even the intestines were used to be processed for consumers to eat. This again demonstrates the horrible ways in which the consumers were treated by the food industry and the unclean parts of the meats their moneys were paying for without their knowledge. People would be eating spoiled meat and in the factories, meats were sometimes chemically processed to change their color and taste when they were found to be spoiled. This really demonstrates again the disregard of the consumer’s health by the food industry.
Mr. Sinclair points out that persons fell ill and even died from consuming these products. Workers, who were also consumers, suffered tremendously because they had to deal with working in inhumane, unsanitary conditions. They suffered both physically and mentally as portrayed by the characters in The Jungle, persons who had to work in such deplorable conditions obviously suffered .This quote that follows is showing the dangers of this industry for its workers. “Then once more the gates were opened and
another lot rushed in, and so out of each pen there rolled a steady stream of carcasses, which the men upon the killing floor had to get out the way.”(33) The workers were worked literally every minute of the day and had to be very exhausted an example of this is “they worked with furious intensity, literally upon the run at a pace with which there is nothing to be compared except a football game.” (33). Because of the intensity of the work and the speed of which it had to be done , persons would loose fingers from the machines and this would be processed along with the meat to become a finished product. Consumers had no idea of what was being put into their bodies because they thought it was safe and had been approved by the government.
The book deals with many issues. These issues are those of exposing the dangers of the Industry, in the way the meat was prepared and stored for consumer use, also it speaks of an immigrant family in search of a better life that ends up working in the factory and becoming a part of the system. They themselves throughout the book have been dramatically affected by the dangers of the industry as employees and as consumers. The Jungle and the documentary Super Size Me, both show the food industry’s way of selling unhealthy foods to its consumers. They only had in mind their own self interest and the amount of profit that would be brought in.
The film documentary, Super Size Me is based on the research and experience of Morgan Spurlock to prove that McDonald’s Super Sized Meals posed a serious threat on the health of Americans and was one of the significant reasons for the growing statistics of obesity in America.
The difference between both pieces is with the film, unlike The Jungle. McDonald’s is a fast food business that provides a variety of fast meals that mainly consists of burgers some of which, are Super Sized for a low additional price for us the consumers. The conditions in these industries are clean and tidy, the meats are clean and unlike in The Jungle there are sufficient and proper storage facilities to house meats and other foods that may be used. This is due to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Law that was passed in 1906 by then President Theodore Roosevelt who was described as being repulsed by reading of slaughterhouse
practices described in Mr. Sinclair’s The Jungle, created safer and cleaner conditions for the food industry to follow.
At his weigh in Mr. Spurlock weighed an estimated 185.5 lbs, and would be only consuming over the next month at least every meal on the McDonald’s Super Sized menu. As days went on he slowly begun to gain weight and his metabolism begun to slow rapidly, he sometimes experienced nausea and brought his meals up again. There is said to be an estimated 83 McDonald’s in Manhattan, more, than any where else. There also is no comparison of other fast foods compared to the amounts. The meals at McDonald’s are unhealthy and filled with a lot of fats and sugars. It was stated in the documentary that over the last 20-25 years the amount of obese kids in the United States has doubled. The astonishing statistic is that every one in three child will develop diabetes. An estimated 17,000,000 Americans suffer from diabetes, I believe that McDonald’s and the food industry contributes largely to this.
The industry’s attitude were similar and both different. I say this because the common goals of the food industries are to make substantial profits at whatever the cost. In The Jungle we see that unhealthy meats that were packaged from the unsanitary factory were shipped to stores without a thought on the damage and health issues the consumers would suffer. While in Super Size Me, McDonalds would Super Size its meals for the low price of an additional extra cents to appease and attract customers. There were many other tactics used to lure consumers to their establishment and as we saw in the film, there was a goal to get kids form a tender age to love McDonalds with the logos, Ronald the ever so popular clown that everyone knows, the playgrounds, the game prizes and many other things that would attract kids.
When Mr. Spurlock decided to do his documentary he was in perfect health and to prove it went to nutritionist and doctors to check his status. He came out with a clean bill of health and was a healthy individual; his livers, kidneys and cholesterol were fine. Before he began it was stated that since 1980 the amount of obese persons has doubled and is the second cause of death after smoking in America. There is an
estimated 400,000 persons who die from obesity each year. This just proves my point on the dangers of the food industry, and because of these unhealthy foods the consumer’s health and lives are on the line.
During and at the completion of Mr. Spurlock’s experiment he had become very ill and had to consult regularly with his doctor and nutritionists. He begun experiencing mood swings and was depressed at times. There were times when he had difficulty breathing, chest pains, and his sex drive was not the same there was a change, he had less energy and less stamina. The diet was killing his liver and he had gained 24.5 lbs. His cholesterol was extremely high and he was at a risk of developing diseases. Through all of these problems and symptoms Mr. Spurlock tried tirelessly contacting management at various McDonald’s establishments to have an interview but was given the run around. He also visited different McDonald’s to see how many of them had their nutrition facts posted and guess what! Most of the establishments did not have them posted, or they could not find it. This proves the point that health of the consumer is not the first priority of the food industry.
As a result of this documentary,” by the end of 2004, Supersize meals was no longer available at any of the nation’s 13,000 plus McDonald’s except in certain promotions.” Also as a result of much scrutiny and pressure to give consumers healthier food options as a result of the country’s bulging waistline and health issues McDonald’s introduced a variety of salads to lead consumers in believing that they cared about their health, but truth be told the salads are just as fattening with dressings.
The effects of the food processing industry for example is that in The Jungle the consumers and the workers get sick, eat unhealthy, chemical induced meats and in some cases die. Here in this quote, we see the effect the dirty meat had on the consumers. One of the workers had died by eating the sausage. “perhaps it was the smoked sausage he had eaten that morning which may have been out with some of the tuberculosis pork that was condemned as unfit for export” (144) “the meat would be moldy and white, stinking and full of maggots; and still, cartload after cartload, it would be taken up and dumped into the
hoppers with fresh meat, and sent out to the dear public’s breakfast.” (127) these examples show the vile misrepresentations of the food industry portrayed by Upton Sinclair, in the factories. Persons were also injured, not treated right and even died. “There was no place for the men to wash their hands before they ate their dinner and so they made a practice of washing them in the water that was to be ladled into the sausage.” (127)
The purpose of the experiment was to prove that McDonald’s if eaten every day for a month, for breakfast, lunch and dinner could cause serious health problems for someone and could lead to failure of the lungs, blood pressure, weight, and cause diseases.
The relationship that I would like to see between the food industry and the consumer is a good, healthy relationship where the industry’s main interest is its consumers. This is the way that it should be. There should be a mutual respect between both parties’s because they help each other out and one does not prosper without the other.
In conclusion, the growing rate of obesity in America is growing primarily because of the food industry. The effect of obesity is a very dire situation in the United States and consequences of not eating healthily are sicknesses and even death. Americans are resorting to gastro bypass surgery in an effort to loose weight but this should not be the answer because our answer is plain and simple, by eating healthy!! The Jungle and the film Super Size Me brings to our attention many different ways that the food industry takes advantage of its consumers and hopefully with time the relationship will progress and the food industry will realizes that there is more to life than money, the nations health is more important and valuable than a few extra dollars. The importance of these books and documentaries are that they bring awareness and informs the public on the practices of the food industry.