Fast Food Non-Transparency
One advantage the fast food industry has over its competitors in the stores is that there is very little transparency required compared to what must be put on a package in a store. Labeling laws require stores to provide the shopper with a fairly good rough idea on what is in the product.
Conversely, when you grab something at a fast food joint, you don’t’ usually know what goes into the food. Yes, you get a general idea from the menu, but you often have no way of really knowing everything that went into the food item. That’s because fast food joints typically don’t have to list what goes into their products.
Usually any legislation that affects the fast food establishments comes at the local or state level. There is very little national legislation on food transparency. Some states such as New York and California have become more aggressive lately in their laws requiring declaration of what is in fast food, but many states are still quite lax.
There is some movement afoot on the national science, but it is not comprehensive. Currently national legislation is on the table that would require fast food chains which have 20 or more outlets to post the caloric content for consumer. However, even this is shaky.
It has also been noted that many fast food chains provide a calorie count number that is often significantly below the actual calorie count in the food. In every instance noted, the actual calorie count was well above the amount listed by the fast food chain. So even with the calorie count being supplied, it may not be correct.
The fast food industry has been the most difficult to corral when it comes to food transparency and health issues. This group was the last to the table on pulling out trans fat as well as being obstinate about the transparency of what is in the food they offer.
Currently only some of this group has gone along with the movement to pull trans fat out of food products. Stop at the local fast food joint and you may indeed be ingesting quite a bit of this very unhealthy fat.
In addition to feet dragging on trans fat, this group is moving slowly on the calorie listing area as well. And even though the listing of accurate calories will be a step forward, there are still several significant caveats besides the low-ball calorie counts that the fast food industry is providing.
First, most “mom & pop” establishments won’t have to list anything – at all. For all you know, the local shop may have slopped an extra few ounces of high calorie sauce on every meal it makes – effectively doubling the calorie count right under your nose. Think about it – have you ever eaten at one of these establishments where the ingredients or calories were provided?
Second, calories are only one small piece of the puzzle. The big issues are trans fat, sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients (sodium benzoate, etc) which have negative effects on the human body. These hidden ingredients are of major consequence and until they are accurately revealed, everything remains a guessing game. Many fast food places are still using trans fat on a consistent basis.
And then there is the issue of interesterfied fats, which are the new substitute for trans fat. How do you know if you’re being fed a load of toxic elements if you aren’t able to determine what’s in the food?
And finally, there is the equally important breakdown of the calories – how many of the calories come from fat, how many come from simple sugar, etc. for healthy eating, these items must be revealed.
Only when fast food outlets divulge exactly what’s in the food they offer, can people make informed decisions about hat to eat. Until then, it truly is a case of caveat emptor.