I’m two years behind on this, but I recently read Eric Schlosser’s best-selling book Fast Food Nation(Perennial, 2002). It’s a stunning expose of the working and sanitary conditions in the quick service industry. I take notes on most books, recording salient points. Here are this volume’s highlights.

“In 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2001, they spent more than $110 billion. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music-combined.”

“On any given day in the United States about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant.”

“An estimated one out of every eight workers in the United States has at some point been employed by McDonald’s.”

“The roughly 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum wage earners in the United States. The only Americans who consistently earn a lower hourly wage are [the 1 million] migrant farm workers.”

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  • “The typical American now consumes approximately three hamburgers and four orders of French fries every week.”

    “The United States now has more prison inmates than full-time farmers.”

    “The federal government has the legal authority to recall a defective toaster oven or stuffed animal-but still lacks the power to recall tons of contaminated, potentially lethal meat.”

    “Meatpacking is now the most dangerous job in the United States. The injury rate in a slaughterhouse is about three times higher than the rate in a typical American factory. Every year more than one-quarter of the meatpacking workers in this country-roughly forty thousand men and women-suffer an injury or a work-related illness that requires medical attention beyond first aid.”

    “The current high levels of ground beef contamination, combined with the even higher levels of poultry contamination, have led to some bizarre findings. A series of tests conducted by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, discovered far more fecal bacteria in the average American kitchen sink than on the average American toilet seat.”

    “Future historians, I hope, will consider the American fast food industry a relic of the twentieth century-a set of attitudes, systems, and beliefs that emerged from postwar southern California, that embodied its limitless faith in technology, that quickly spread across the globe, flourished briefly, and then receded, once its true costs became clear. . . . Whatever replaces the fast food industry should be regional, diverse, authentic, unpredictable, sustainable, profitable-and humble.”

    Now you don’t have to read the book.