Cause and Effect Essay - McDonald's Causes More Deaths than Terrorists
It was probably inevitable that one day people would start suing McDonald's
for making them fat. That day came this summer, when New York lawyer Samuel
Hirsch filed several lawsuits against McDonald's, as well as four other
fast-food companies, on the grounds that they had failed to adequately
disclose the bad health effects of their menus. One of the suits involves a
Bronx teenager who tips the scale at 400 pounds and whose mother, in papers
filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, said, "I always believed
McDonald's food was healthy for my son."
Uh-huh. And the tooth fairy really put that dollar under his pillow. But
once you've stopped sniggering at our litigious society, remember that it
once seemed equally ludicrous that smokers could successfully sue tobacco
companies for their addiction to cigarettes. And while nobody is claiming
that Big Macs are addictive -- at least not yet -- the restaurant industry
and food packagers have clearly helped give many Americans the roly-poly
shape they have today. This is not to say that the folks in the food
industry want us to be fat. But make no mistake: When they do well
economically, we gain weight.
It wasn't always thus. There was a time when a
trip to McDonald's seemed like a treat and when a small bag of French fries,
a plain burger and a 12-ounce Coke seemed like a full meal. Fast food wasn't
any healthier back then; we simply ate a lot less of it.
How did today's oversized appetites become the norm? It didn't happen by
accident or some inevitable evolutionary process. It was to a large degree
the result of consumer manipulation. Fast food's marketing strategies, which
make perfect sense from a business perspective, succeed only when they
induce a substantial number of us to overeat. To see how this all came
about, let's go back to 1983, when John Martin became CEO of the ailing Taco
Bell franchise and met a young marketing whiz named Elliott Bloom.
Using so-called "smart research," a then-new kind of in-depth consumer
survey, Bloom had figured out that fast-food franchises were sustained
largely by a core group of "heavy users," mostly young, single males, who
ate at such restaurants as often as 20 times a month. In fact, 30 percent of
Taco Bell's customers accounted for 70 percent of its sales. Through his
surveys, Bloom learned what might seem obvious now but wasn't at all clear
20 years ago -- these guys ate at fast-food joints because they had
absolutely no interest in cooking for themselves and didn't give a rip about
the nutritional quality of the food. They didn't even care much about the
taste. All that mattered was that it was fast and cheap. Martin figured Taco
Bell could capture a bigger share of these hard-core customers by
streamlining the food production and pricing main menu items at 49, 59 and
69 cents -- well below its competitors.
It worked. Taco Bell...