BULLSHIT: Fast Food

I had a really cool post scheduled for today (found more viruses in mammalian genomes that are NOT retroviral. Its EBOLA AND MARBURG. IN GENOMES.) but theres no point in posting it right now because everyone is freaking out about Pepsi.

Im not sacrificing a cool post to a blog drama moment.

So, for now, heres a clip from this season of BULLSHIT, on fast food:

Keep freaking out, if you so desire.

Comments

  1. #1 Mu
    July 7, 2010

    While the drama is fun, please keep posting the science. Not many of us can stand reading through whole papers on virus genomes, not even talking understanding the content and extracting the vital or novel parts of it. That why we read SCIENCE blogs.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2010

    ‘spain this to me: Why is everyone quitting or boycotting or otherwise shitting in their pants over Pepsi but never did over Shell (they kill human rights activits) and GE (PCBs? Letterman?) blogs? Is this some sort of surface manefestation of an underlying cultural phenomenon that I’m not getting?

    It’s totally cool to stare hard with the evil eye and everything at a corporate blog. But this is more like when Joe Friday holds his gun to his own head and says “Stop or I’ll shoot!” to the fleeing criminal (refering back here to very obscure fan fiction).

  3. #3 JohnV
    July 7, 2010

    Greg there’s lots of weird behavior going unchallenged all of a sudden. Think about when a blogger here post about “topic x” and a “topic x devotee” shows up and says “why (blogger) I read your blog all the time but now that you said this I’m leaving and never coming back”.

    There would be much mockery and laughing at the person. But now all of a sudden there’s a bunch of bloggers doing that and a bunch of people making that claim in the comment section of the first entry in that blog.

    And as ERV and someone else pointed out in a comment on Orac’s blog, no one raised an eyebrow at the anti-science masquerading* as “organic food activism” and the like that goes on here, stated aptly in a comment on one blog “the myth of progress”. That stuff goes unchallenged but all of a sudden corporate scientists get a blog and zomg you’d think that the zombie apocalypse from last week was really happening today.

    *woot I spelled this right on my first try

  4. #4 TJ
    July 7, 2010

    I would like to read the post on filoviruses please.

  5. #5 ERV
    July 7, 2010

    Im posting it tomorrow. I just dont want it to get lost in the bullshit going on today.

  6. #6 Optimus Primate
    July 7, 2010

    Well, hell, if you’re looking to post diversions until the dust settles, I’d rather see more hawt ivory body parts than Bullshit episodes I’ve already watched.

    Just sayin’.

  7. #7 Stephen Wells
    July 7, 2010

    Did you already stake out Endogenous Filovirus on scienceblogs?

  8. #8 Sven DiMilo
    July 7, 2010

    afaik the Shell and GE blogs were corporate-sponsored, but this one is corporate-generated content. i.e. presumably advertising/spin.

  9. #9 Craig
    July 7, 2010

    I watched all 3 parts of the penn and teller episode. I have mixed feelings. Both sides of the argument are very biased. Only irrational and non evidence based arguments from the anti-fast food side were given (arguments easier to knock down) and Penn seemed more interested in calling people names and pushing his anti-government libertarian agenda than actually evaluating the nutritional value of fast food.

  10. #10 Mike
    July 7, 2010

    ERV,
    Thanks for replying to me over at Orac’s post. As a food/agricultural scientist, the amount of food science denialism is bad enough. But what is worse is that even scientists who call out other quackeru refuse to call out food science denialism and engage in it themselves.

  11. #11 tamakazura
    July 7, 2010

    God damn it. I’m becomming a conservative, and it’s the my fellow liberals who are driving me there! This can’t happen! I’m living in San Francisco! I like social justice and diversity and gay rights, but I’m starting to take the same dim view of loons on the far left who want to regulate my life as I have of the loons on the far right who want the churches to be in charge.

    Anyway, I think “Filovirus Fantastic!” with like a rainbow-gradient and a big “BAM” explosion cartoon balloon in the background would be a great blog name. The more the logo looks like a detergent box, the better!

  12. #12 Maria
    July 7, 2010

    The whole “fast food is cheaper, that’s why poor people eat it” tends to be bullshit argument as well. I’m sorry. I might as well say that if you’re putting up a P&T episode.

    In my first year out of high school which was not that long ago to take inflation into account, I lived off of bulk rice, potatoes, carrots(or other veggie) and the occasional chicken, fish and tough cheap bits of beef every so often. Maybe some legumes and greens thrown in for the vitamins. And tea. Lots of herbal tea. Why, that’s a princes ransom worth of ingredients right there. Really fracking expensive stuff. No, wait, it wasn’t. Week to week it ended up being less money then if I had been living off of Taco Bell, pizza or KFC. And I didn’t fart as much.

    I’ve gotten off my bad habits that I picked up in college and now again eat like that. It’s cheap and nourishing eating. Has to be a hell of a lot more nourishing then “cheap” burgers, fries and a coke. Er.. sorry, and a pepsi.

    Food can be cheap, bulk and raw. It’s simple food made better with spices and herbs (homegrown or bought) and sauce.

    Maybe those that live on a day to day budget of a few dollars… Maybe all they can buy is a hamburger a day. ‘strue. Fast food is, at that point, maybe a life saver?

    That debate goes well beyond fatty burgers or a fucking salt/drink tax. Decrying dollar menues because they make people fat is ridiculous. I made myself fat by not moving and not caring about what was going on with my body.

    For most people, cheap food is seen as boring food. I can’t help but wonder if that’s why people eat fast food and eat out and do not truly eat cheap food. They don’t know how to make cheap interesting or quick. We’ve forgotten how to cook cheap or to acquire bulk food as a group (in cases where transport and time are scarce), to plan and rotate a week or months worth of food for themselves let alone their kids.

    Oh and in general, we’re damned lazy and always see ourselves as victims.

    Fast food is not “boring” food, (for me it’s boring… but i digress) it fucks the consumer tastebuds and we want more. And that is what their science does very very -well-. So let them talk about it. :)

    Now P&T? That is some interesting opinion on science.

  13. #13 Jose Fly
    July 7, 2010

    I don’t give a shit about Pepsi-gate to tell you the truth. And I am looking forward to your post tomorrow.

    But Penn and Teller’s “Bullshit”? What a shallow, juvenile, stupid-assed show. I couldn’t make it through the third segment it was so annoying.

    “Oh look, people base their opinions on food about perception, rather than reality”

    So what? How does that change the FACT that a biggie-sized combo meal is 3X the number of calories a normal person needs? How does that change the FACT that fast food companies market meals to kids that have waaaaaay more calories, fat, and salt than they need in a day?

    All P&T can muster in response is to call the food advocate names (“skinny asshole”, etc.)? Yeah, now THERE’S some in-depth analysis!

    Fuckin’ stupid assed show……

  14. #14 Onkel Bob
    July 7, 2010

    Once more… As a part-time reader, I am woefully ignorant of many things (#1 the blogger’s name is Abbie, not Abby) and one she mentioned is “last year” as in SciBlogs did some terrible act last year. Can someone chime in and tell me what was so horrible? I mean the short bus became a little shorter when Intersections went away, but wasn’t that a good thing?

  15. #15 JF
    July 7, 2010

    That’s the kid of show I’d like to see tackle the anti-smoking lobby.

  16. #16 Marichi
    July 7, 2010

    Pushing Penn & Teller BS on SB is even worse than Pepsi shilling. Do we need government regulation to help us lead healthier lives. Of course yes. There is no shortage of ignorant dumbos – but when they turn Type II we pay for it because they have been too deadbeat to start with.

  17. #17 Jose Fly
    July 7, 2010

    I can just imagine P&T’s episode on smoking…

    “Look! Here’s some 20-somethings who smoke yet don’t have cancer, emphysema, heart disease, or any other problems! So wut’s the big fuckin’ deal you healthy assholes who want warning labels and higher taxes? Shit!”

    That’s pretty much how they “tackled” fast food.

  18. #18 Cain
    July 7, 2010

    @15 Marichi
    I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you, but that is only because I don’t hate my fellow citizen nor hold them in contempt. I also don’t think they are so stupid as to be unable to learn about healthy lifestyle choices and then apply them.

  19. #19 SLC
    July 7, 2010

    OT but is Ms. Smith going to take the opportunity to have some fun at the expense of her favorite “science writer,” Mr. Chris Mooney? What a credulous asshole.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/holy_crap_we_were_all_played.php

  20. #20 eddie
    July 7, 2010

    I’m pretty sure that obesity is mainly about personal choice, and both sides of the fast-food debate have good points such as the cost of treating diabetics on one hand and on the other, people should be free to make their own mistakes. (You USers don’t yet have a proper health service so doyou bear the cost of other’s greed in this way?)

    But that’s all beside the point.

    If people are to be free to make their choices, we need to have access to information that those choices are based on. The present spat is about the separation of advertising and editorial content, where people fear that the trustworthiness of their content is undermined.

    Also, the P+T show was deeply dishonest, not just for the reason given above with the anti-smoking analogy, but in that they clearly showed a study where fast-food was actually turnes into slow food, by making different dishes with the same stuff, but they still said it was fast food.

  21. #21 David
    July 7, 2010

    In the podcast transcript of “Super Sized Fast Food Phobia,” (2/19/08), Brian Dunning writes, “Dr. Dean Edell once took a call on his radio show from a woman whose teenage daughter ate a fast food hamburger every day. The woman was worried that her daughter would develop malnutrition. Quite the contrary, said Dr. Edell: She might gain weight if she ate a lot of them, but malnutrition is that last thing she should worry about. A hamburger is actually quite a balanced meal, rich with just about every nutrient. Add a slice of cheese and it even contains all four food groups. Fast food hamburgers are excellent sources of protein, calcium, and iron.”

    http://tinyurl.com/29qrjav

    http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4088

    http://infactvideo.com/

  22. #22 John Marley
    July 7, 2010

    @Maria (#12)

    Yeah, that’s all good if, as was pointed out in the P&T video, you have the time! Cooking takes time (and a little skill, if you actually want to enjoy your food), cleaning up takes time.

    Not everyone has that kind of time. Especially if you come home worn out from a physically demanding job.

    But go ahead, take away fast food restaurants. What about the buffet restaurants? What about regular sit-down restaurants, should the government legislate portions? Then what? Frozen dinners? Boxed Mac&Cheese? Better get rid of every isle at the grocery store except Produce, Dairy and Fresh Meats. Or maybe start issuing ration cards.

    Health isn’t all about food either. Should we make gym membership mandatory for all citizens, and monitor activity to ensure people are going?

    Exercise and a healthy diet are wonderful ideas. But I doubt having the government to legislate them is at all practical. I do support better (and earlier) health education in public schools.

    On that note, does anyone know of a legitimate study comparing regulation vs. education on smoking? I’d bet that if there is one, it will show that education is more effective at reducing smoking than regulation.

    Sorry about the rant. This is about the only subject that can make me go off like a Libertarian.

    Now it’s anecdote time. Feel free to ignore this part.

    I used to work as an assistant manager at McDonalds. It sucked. The only real plus was free food, since I pretty much could not have afforded to eat otherwise. Even affording Maria’s diet above would have been tough. (I want to re-emphasize the FREE part.) So, three years, give or take a little, of McDonalds. Every day. How unhealthy was I? Actually, during those three years I managed to lose a lot of the fat that had plagued me throughout six years in the military. I was in the best shape of my life. Why? Because it is easy to eat healthy at McDonalds. You just have to, you know, care. No amount of regulation is going to do that.

  23. #23 Jose Fly
    July 8, 2010

    Some of the comments here are guilty of the same sort of strawman fallacy as P&T, although not as childishly.

    Unless I missed something, the goal of the “skinny assholes” isn’t to ban fast food, shut down drive thru’s, or have squadrons of nutrition police patrolling your neighborhood. More than likely, their goals are much more rational, i.e. warning labels similar to cigarettes (a #2 combo meal could have something like, “This meal contains 2180 calories, 111g fat, and 2440mg salt, which are more than an average person requires for a full day. Overeating can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, and other health issues), sin taxes, and public education campaigns about overeating, obesity, and maybe even the ecological cost of mass-produced cheap food.

    But no, P&T make it sound as if the healthy eating advocates want to have you get government approval before you eat each meal or something. But then, that’s what’s so revealing about their show. That they can’t address issues as they really are speaks to the inherent weakness of their positions.

  24. #24 Mithrandir
    July 8, 2010

    Overeating can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, and other health issues), sin taxes, and public education campaigns about overeating, obesity, and maybe even the ecological cost of mass-produced cheap food.

    I’d just as soon not have the sin taxes unless they’re specifically earmarked for contributing to healthcare covering heart disease, diabetes, etc. in some way. Sin taxes have a way of getting away from you if they go into the general fund – the government ends up having a perverse incentive to not reduce the taxed behavior.

  25. #25 Marichi
    July 8, 2010

    In any case fast food is just a little better than dog food and cat food, and yes, I love to mix Mountain Dew with Pepsi, it is the best bath tub and bowl cleaner developed yet.

  26. #26 James Sweet
    July 8, 2010

    ‘spain this to me: Why is everyone quitting or boycotting or otherwise shitting in their pants over Pepsi but never did over Shell (they kill human rights activits) and GE (PCBs? Letterman?) blogs? Is this some sort of surface manefestation of an underlying cultural phenomenon that I’m not getting?

    I had a similar reaction, but I think I might have figured it out: While Shell and GE might be evil, their primary target audience for their marketing is not consumers, it is lobbyists. I mean, if Shell stops advertising, will people stop consuming fossil fuels? Please. OTOH, PepsiCo is primarily targeting consumers.

    So from a practical perspective, it is hard to see how Shell could significantly influence the public conversation by having a blog on SB. But PepsiCo could very much further their goals.

    I still think it’s a little out of proportion, but there may at least be some logic behind it.

  27. #27 James Sweet
    July 8, 2010

    In my first year out of high school which was not that long ago to take inflation into account, I lived off of bulk rice, potatoes, carrots(or other veggie) and the occasional chicken, fish and tough cheap bits of beef every so often. Maybe some legumes and greens thrown in for the vitamins. And tea. Lots of herbal tea. Why, that’s a princes ransom worth of ingredients right there. Really fracking expensive stuff. No, wait, it wasn’t. Week to week it ended up being less money then if I had been living off of Taco Bell, pizza or KFC. And I didn’t fart as much.

    Two problems with this argument: One is the “food desert” phenomenon, where in some inner-city areas it can be damn hard to find those fresh whole foods, and they can be expensive. The other problem is that, for people growing up in a cycle of poverty, many of them never learn to cook that stuff.

  28. #28 Maria
    July 8, 2010

    Ah, Anecdotal Stories for 200 please! My parents didn’t teach me how to cook. Oh, they knew how to cook but did not feel it was important for me to learn this skill or to involve me in this aspect of life. I didn’t learn how to cook till I started with the rice, carrots, sauce and a hot plate.

    But anyways, it takes very little time to cook basic, cheap food which sustains and nourishes life. No Martha Stewart or preparing daily dinner parties to discuss world politics. Not even “dishes” and “recipes” , just to take what’s available and prepare simple, edible food on a routine basis. Again, seems to go back to “But it’s boring!” Granted there is some education involved. But it is beyond basic and there are efforts to make this knowledge available.

    As to cooking while exhausted? I think most of humanity has gone through that up to this point. Sure, it’s a perfectly valid reason not to cook, we’ve all used it, but let’s not make it out to be something unique to this day and age. It seems that unless one of our ancient ancestors cooked the stuff dragged back to the cave, people would go hungry. The only people that didn’t have to cook and prepare their own was the royalty, or whatever cultural equivalent one had. It’s probably safe to say that cooking is less exhausting, cheaper, more diverse and more nutritionally balanced when it’s a shared responsibility of community members and not a solo venture.

    But in no way do I support taking away fast food. It is a life line for many, a tasty treat for others. The truth is that there seems to be an inability for people to band together in their communities to source foods. So it is easier to go grab a FF meal as an individual (or small family unit). Maybe it’s a tragedy, maybe it’s not. To each their own in how they feed themselves.

    Many community organizers are working to solve the food desert issue from various angles and some will probably do more damage than good. But it’s up to the communities to work at this, not the federal government regulating soda taxes, salt amounts and ingredients. And it’s not up to some do gooder coming in and telling us what is “right” to eat. I say this as someone who avoids calorie and fat high foods. So yes, the food desert is a valid and important point, but it’s also not as pervasive and insurmountable as some make it out to be. Yes, there are very real issues with poverty and food but putting the blame squarely on Pepsico or some other food monolith takes the solutions out of the hands of the people. Hard to find fresh foods? People not knowing how to cook? Not going to be solved by banning or taxing fast or “junk” food.

    My thoughts on how urban areas can be fed have evolved over the years. I was surprised at seeing how truly poor people eat in urban centers of Eastern Europe and Asia. Not much sure, but the fact is that rice, flour and raw vegetables are available (subsidized in some cases). And yes, there is plenty of hunger but there’s also a lot of local food stalls and markets available. And people cooking on street corners. Whole groups of neighbors/extended families using the same small cooking area, sharing transport costs or storage. That is not something one sees much in North American urban centers. But we have… fast food outlets.

    So for me the whole Pepsico issue goes far beyond fast food and sugar drinks (which seemed to be the brunt of the commentator and some blogger issues) and touches at food production mechanisms and economics in the US. That’s why I wish the roll out of the now DOA blog hadn’t been so royally fucked up.

    Oh, i think food in general get’s a lot of people’s rant button riled up. ;)

  29. #29 QJ
    July 8, 2010

    Fast food is very clearly a huge contributor to the ‘obesity epidemic’ (or whatever other slogan you want use). To deny that is rather silly. However, there is some nuance here.

    There’s significant evidence that an increase in body fat has very little or nothing to do with the nutritional content of the food you consume. Rather, it’s the number of calories consumed that is the primary factor. On the other hand, caloric content may only indirectly effect actual health (via obesity-triggered disease), with actual nutritional content being the primary driver there. In other words, body fat does not necessarily negatively correlate with health (something I think the segment took for granted with all it’s skinny trolling).

    So while it’s probably incorrect to stigmatize fast food as ‘bad for you’, except in the very long run and in excess, it’s probably also incorrect to say that fast food is not a large contributor to unhealthy lifestyles and should not be regulated to some degree.

    I think false notions about how to achieve a healthy weight and diet are also a huge contributor to obesity. People think that a healthy weight requires you to invest inordinate amounts of time when, in actuality, it just requires some fortitude and follow-through.

    I’m not claiming to have done this the correct way, but I’ve lost 30 pounds and 6 slots on my belt over the course of 6 months. My only suggestions (which I think somewhat echo the FDA and other health organizations’ suggestions) is to do a little bit of exercise (some cardio, some light weight training) every single day, informally monitor your caloric intake (I aim for at most 400 KCal per meal, and ~100 KCal for snacks.. I sometimes indulge, though :), weigh yourself every single day, and keep track of your weight and exercise level every single day. (I use the Hacker’s Diet Online @ http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/online/hdo.html for this last item, but you could use a Google spreadsheet too — something you can get to from anywhere)

    I started out extremely slowly, maybe 10 minutes of exercise a day. It felt like it was a breeze and like I was doing nothing. But I started steadily losing weight anyways. If you start slowly and gradually increase, you’re more likely to keep with it than if you were to dive right in trying to run 5 miles a day.

    tl;dr – eat fast food, but be reasonable about it. That sounds banal, but it’s true ! :P

  30. #30 Bjørn Østman
    July 9, 2010

    I hadn’t seen this Bullshit before, but knew P&T were libertarians, and that they like pushing their political agenda on their show, but I really had no idea that it was this bad. What could possibly be the salient point of posting it here, Abbie? Is it your love of swearing or your love of Mountain Dew that makes P&T appeal to you?

    So many things are plainly wrongheaded about P&T’s attitude towards fast food, politics, and TV, presenting issues as important as this one the way they do. Get those amateurs off the air, for satan.

    As for the people saying that they and many other Americans just don’t have time to cook, that’s BS. The reason most of them don’t is because they are glued to the TV every evening for hours on end. Making a healthy meal once a day does not need to take more than 30 minutes – what is it that you must watch so badly every single day? How about skipping Bullshit?

  31. #31 Science Avenger
    July 13, 2010

    It seems clear to me that fast food is hopelessly unhealthy and expensive compared to almost anything home cooked. I don’t buy the “I don’t have time” argument either, unless one is on the road between destinations. Nonetheless…

    …while in college in 1984, drained of funds and willing to do nearly anything ethical to get by, I took full advantage of the McDonald’s Olympic game. This is the one where you get free food if the Americans medal in the event printed on your free game card you get when you go in. I would wander by between classes and scoop up game cards left by those not as desperate as I. When the month to turn them in came, I did so. All of them. Every day. 3-4 times: a Big Mac, fries, and a coke, for a month. I didn’t gain a pound, nor notice any ill health effects.

    Then again, my main mode of transportation was my bicycle, and to say my metabolism was high would be a major understatement. The lesson I take from that is not that fast food isn’t unhealthy, or can’t be cheap for that matter. It’s that one shouldn’t do medical research with a sample space of one. Oh, and never eat 3-4 Big Macs a day for a month. It’s likely to cause you to never eat one again.