With every precious tick of the clock, an American rushes to perform yet another task in a day with a meager 24 hours. With all the activity encompassed within these hours, many aspects of life are neglected. One of these aspects–the most important and vital one, in fact– is self-nourishment. One must eat foods that are healthy as well as conducive to optimal bodily function and survival. In an attempt to adequately nourish themselves, Americans have fallen victim to seductive fast-food advertising that falsely leads them to believe that fast-food is healthy; this is an unconscionable misrepresentation on the part of the advertisers and thus should be punished.
Firstly, what is the point of advertising? “Advertising,” the San Francisco Chronicle says, “is meant too woo the consumer. The fast food industry uses images of crisp green lettuce, juicy red tomatoes, and crunchy nutritious onions in its advertisements to lure the hungry American off their couch and into fast-food restaurants”. This unabashed seduction of the mouth and eyes, coupled with endorsements of celebrities (Britney Spears for McDonalds, BB King for Burger King, etc.), leads Americans to fast-food restaurants in droves.
Since the late 1970s, notes the Anchorage Daily News, “fast food consumption has risen over 15%. While Americans used to consume fast food for about only 17% of their meals, that number has now skyrocketed to 32%.” The sharp increase in consumption of fast food since the 1970s can be attributed to the aggressive advertising campaigns of the fast food industry. Clearly, the objectives of these advertisers have been met as they have been successful in attracting consumers by the millions and thus achieving enormous growth within the industry.
However, the means by which advertisers attract these customers are deceitful. Fast-food advertisers, charges the Boston Globe, are aware of the fact that, “America is weight-conscious. They pepper their advertisements with images of vegetables and healthy foods to make fast food seem healthy.” However, this is simply not the case: one quarter-pounder with a large side of French fries from the infinitely popular Burger King chain, has 1,166 calories, 95 mg of cholesterol, 1,300 mg of sodium, and over 51 grams of fat. These amounts far surpass the recommended intake per meal. The Lexington Clipper-Herald declares, “Fast food restaurants, ranging from Ranch One to McDonald’s to Popeye’s have meals that top over 2,000 calories- the recommended daily caloric intake for an adult aged 18-65.” These facts are masked and overlooked in advertisements, causing health-conscious Americans, as well as those who simply desire a quick meal, to buy fast-food with little or no knowledge of its negative effects.
“What exactly are these negative effects?” one may ask. Well, not only are many Americans unaware of the fatty content in many fast foods, they actually believe that it is healthy due to the advertising that is intended to make them believe so. Thus, they eat fast food as often as two or three times a day. The Guardian quotes one man, Gregory Rhymes, a nearly 400-pound man as saying ‘”I normally order the Big Mac, fries, ice-cream or shake for lunch and dinner. I like to super-size my orders.”‘. His mother, Ruth, said shortly after, “‘I would have stopped him, but I always believed that McDonalds’ food was healthy for my son.”‘
The Rhymes’ are not alone: The Seattle Times reports that “Over the last few decades, increased consumption and sales of unhealthful fast food has paralleled the rising prevalence of obesity.” This increased consumption and growth in sales is partly the result of deceptive advertising. Though other factors may have caused the increased popularity of these chains, such as the American lifestyle, the reality is that this devious advertising has contributed to an ever-growing trend, with over 25% of American children either overweight or obese.
This obesity, while obviously aesthetically unappealing, “has been associated with cardiovascular, endocrine, pulmonary, hepatic, renal, musculoskeletal, neurological, and psychosocial complications” according to the Boston Globe. Again, the libelous advertising that has caused millions to choose fast-food restaurants over healthier alternatives has effectively contributed to the higher incidence of obesity in the United States. It is unconscionable that any company, well-aware of the potential harmful effects of their food, could so egregiously deceive and subsequently profit from the ignorance of the American public. Of course, it is the responsibility of every individual to educate themselves about the food they’re eating as they are making a conscious decision when purchasing and consuming the fast-food meals.
However, one’s responsibility to oneself does not relieve the fast-food industry of their obligation to educate or at least, present fairly to the public the products they offer. The responsibility of a company to the society at large is such that they do not harm their customers but add value through their product. In this case, the fast-food industry has played a significant role in the rise in obesity due to their bad faith advertising. Marketing campaigns that reek of dishonesty should be eliminated and any continued deception of this nature should be subjected to either monetary or regulatory punishment. It would be tragic for more people like Gregory Rhymes to suffer as a result of consumers’ misplaced trust. Hopefully, with increased health awareness, the popularity of fast-food will slowly fade; Americans will regain their health and reclaim lives crippled by fast-food induced obesity and its complications.