Giving us something to chew on

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 20, 2002

The fast food industry is coming under attack with a lawsuit that was filed in the Bronx Supreme Court by Caesar Barber, a 56 year-old maintenance worker who weighs 272 pounds. He claims his years of eating fast food from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken contributed to his diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Many people want to disregard this lawsuit and say no one put a gun to Barber’s head and made him eat fast food, it was his choice to eat food that most people consider "junk food".

But, Barber may have a point. Granted, Barber chose to eat fast food. His conflict with the fast food industry is that he thought he was eating healthy when the fast food industries advertised that they served 100 percent beef. Barber claims he thought this meant that the food was pure. One of my first thoughts to this argument is that he didn’t use good judgment on the food he chose to eat. According to Far Eastern philosophy and medicine, all unhappiness and disease exists in our lower judgement or eclipsed judgment. According to Michio Kushi, a teacher of macrobiotic medicine who lives in Boston, Massachusetts and founder of the East West Society, "However hard we try to cure sickness, it is in vain unless we improve our judgement." Was Barber’s judgement to eat poorly clouded by his years of ingesting terrible food?

I am not an advocate of fast food nor am I a vegetarian. I tried to be a vegetarian some 27 years ago and I didn’t succeed for very long. Twenty-seven years ago I went to cooking school in Boston to study macrobiotic cooking and my husband and I ran a macrobiotic restaurant in Dublin, Ireland. Choosing food with the macrobiotic philosophy is eating food in season and food that is grown in a radius of 500 miles. The macrobiotic diet is based on eating grains, beans, cooked vegetables, some animal products and fruit. We didn't follow the macrobiotic diet strictly, but one thing we did and still do is look at the energy of where food comes from. Energy where fast food comes from is animals that were raised in confinement or on pasture that used to be rainforest. The potatoes are chopped, flavored with beef fat, frozen and then fried. The bread at a fast food restaurant is made from white flour with every nutritional element removed from it The sauces on the sandwiches are full of sugar, salt, dyes and artificial ingredients. The foods in a fast food restaurant are shipped in, flash frozen, cooked under high heat and placed under heat lamps before the consumer ingests it. When you eat fast food, according to Far Eastern and macrobiotic philosophy you are also eating the erratic energy in which the food was processed.

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I wouldn't want to eat fast food day after day. Are Americans and the world addicted to fast food? Eric Schlossler, the author of "Fast Food Nation: What the All-American Meal is Doing to the World," published by Allen Love, The Penguin Press, thinks they are.

Schlossler researched how fast food was designed to taste so good. He ate an enormous amount of fast food in his research and found that it tasted pretty good. The reason he found it tasted so good was that it has been carefully designed to taste good. To make processed food palatable, a vast industry has arisen in the last 60 years. The flavor industry is highly secretive and Schlossler toured the factories where flavors are created. He could not get the precise formulas or flavor compounds or the identities of the industry's clients.

Like the cigarette companies putting chemicals into cigarettes to addict smokers, the fast food industry adds flavors to hook customers. No one put a gun to a smoker's head to keep him or her smoking but they became addicted.

Is fast food addictive or is eating it only contributed to bad judgement?

Right now the Bronx Supreme Court will decide.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at