McDonald's: We're not as bad as arsenic! And we create (pretty lousy) jobs!

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Faced with fresh assaults on fast food from politicians and anti- obesity activists, the restaurant industry is gearing up to fight back, emphasizing the role fast-food businesses have played in providing jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.


That's the lead paragraph from a story in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, and I just have to laugh at the attempt to misdirect.

Just for a moment, let's pretend that they're selling, say, poison. Would their argument that at least they're providing jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities? Drug dealers are entrepreneurs, too, and they provide jobs to their sales staff and runners. Would anyone ever consider that side of the equation? Preposterous.

OK, so let's return to the word "pretend" — it's the only wiggle room for the other side of the argument. But there's very little pretense in my statements. Who wants to argue that fast food is healthy? Who wants to argue that it doesn't become more unhealthy for users as more of it eaten? 

Is it as poisonous as, say, arsenic? No, of course not, but is that going to win the debate? "McDonald's: We're not as bad as arsenic!" Fast food is not a healthy diet. Defenders may say that as an occasional treat, it's not harmful, but again, is that their coup de grace? "McDonald's: Not too bad if you don't eat it much!" 

Very few people would argue that fast food is healthy, and that is the issue.

Is it drug-like? For most people, probably not. But there is considerable evidence to show that highly processed, artificially high palatability foods act on the brain in ways similar to how drugs and alcohol do. Should everyone have to live without the glories of fast food because some people have biochemical sensitivities to it? No.

But when the industry defends itself without addressing the reasons for all the blowback, it's clear it's because they believe they can't win on those grounds. 

Thanks to Crop to Cuisine for the story tip.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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