Flak Over 'Fast Food Nation'

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I find it quite ironic that Fast Food Nation film is going to be distributed by Rupert Murdoch's entertainment division, especially since his in-store marketing division, News America, takes billions of dollars in advertising dollars from the CPGs (Kraft, Unilever, Tyson, et al). I guess money trumps all.

Fast Food Nation
Fast Food Nation

WSJ.com - Flak Over 'Fast Food Nation'

As “Fast Food Nation” a fictionalized movie based on Eric Schlosser's book, is set to have its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow, an array of U.S. food companies are sharpening a campaign to rebut the allegations in the film and a new book that fast-food chains contribute to the nation's obesity epidemic and other problems.

The film, to be distributed in the U.S. as early as this fall by News Corp.'s Fox Searchlight Pictures, tells the story of an executive from a hamburger chain called Mickey's who visits a Colorado meatpacking town to determine why there's something wrong with the meat in the company's popular sandwich, the Big One. The plant is staffed with illegal immigrants who work in unpleasant conditions. Other story lines include a teenager who works at a Mickey's who is frightened by a string of robberies at nearby fast-food restaurants. Actors Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are among the cast.

In addition, Mr. Schlosser and co-author Charles Wilson this month released “Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want To Know About Fast Food” that makes similar arguments as the earlier book, which ties fast-food to health problems, the decline of small farmers and American cultural homogenization. The new one, however, is aimed at 11- to 15-year-olds -- an important demographic for fast-food companies.

Now, more than a dozen trade groups representing producers of beef, potatoes, milk and snacks, along with restaurant groups, are fighting back with a media campaign to counter what one groups contends is the “indigestible propaganda” Mr. Schlosser is spreading. They've launched a Web site called Best Food Nation that quotes employees from Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc. and other food concerns praising the quality and safety of the food supply. They're also encouraging consumers to write letters to local school boards and contact government officials to voice their support for the U.S. food industry.

Kendall Frazier, a spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, says the groups came together after hearing Mr. Schlosser had written a book geared toward young people. “We felt like there are an awful lot of factual errors in this book,” Mr. Frazier says. Mr. Frazier didn't elaborate, but asserted that “a lot of people have misconceptions about food production and what American agriculture is all about.”

The aligned groups include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Meat Institute, the U.S. Potato Board, the National Restaurant Association and the Snack Food Association.

yeah, but only errors can be refuted, not facts, so good luck with this smear campaign....

And Mr. Schlosser discovers himself a target, and doesn't like it:

What bothers me is the use of third parties to attack me when the people who are paying for it aren't standing up and taking credit for it,“ he says of the sudden surge of criticism against him.

Chew On This : Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food (Eric Schlosser)

”Chew On This : Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food“ (Eric Schlosser)

and glad to hear Republicans are so gung-ho about fast food, thin out their ranks a little:

Last week, Mr. Schlosser wrapped up a book tour that took him to middle schools in cities including Berkeley, Calif., and a Chicago suburb located several miles from the McDonald's headquarters. His presentations included pictures of manure piles linked to meat processing and human organs harmed by fat consumption. Some students wore buttons saying their schools ”won't chew on this“ in support of the talk.

Conservative political groups mobilized to blunt the impact of the visits. In Chicago, the Cook County Republican Central Committee last week sent a news release to local media outlets encouraging them to attend a book-signing by the authors and ”ask a challenging question or two.“

The Leadership Institute, an Arlington, Va., organization that says its mission is to further conservative causes, recently sent a letter to the headmaster of a California school before Mr. Schlosser was scheduled to appear there, warning that his message would ”be harmful to your school and to your children,“ and that the author ”undermines and assaults American businessmen.“ Ms. Rozenich, the McDonald's spokeswoman, says the fast-food chain was not involved in either effort and does not fund either of those groups.

Benjamin Wetmore, a spokesman for the Leadership Institute, says the group wrote the letter because of ”general concern over Mr. Schlosser's anecdotes around the country.“

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1 Comment

Some of the same debates are happening in the UK at the moment. In fact the government has brought in measures from autumn that will prevent schools serving "fast food" type options every day. Of course some are saying it will just mean that more packed lunches will be eaten that will have "bad" foods in them making it a pointless initiative but I think that this attitude misses the point. Society can set trends and change future attitudes to such things, but only if some kind of action is taken. Do nothing and nothing changes.

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