Survival Imperatives Are Not What They Used to Be

As we have seen, the compulsion to scarf down mounds of calorie-dense food might stem from a very deep-rooted survival instinct. In the early days of humanity, nobody ever knew where their next meal was coming from. If someone felled an animal, the whole group would reach eagerly for the organ meats and the fat parts, the stuff that would fill them up in the most satisfying way and prolong the sensation of fullness.

Here is a strongly-worded article by a fed-up dad, David Steinman, who also happens to be the chief officer of the HealthyLiving Foundation, “a nonprofit advocacy organization that fights for our right to know about the hidden chemical hazards in consumer products.”

Grownups are watching

Steinman cites some polls that show how many parents actually are concerned about such matters as avoiding chemicals and bacteria in food. In this area, the purveyors of fast food are major offenders, and federal regulations are either unenforced or nowhere to be found. Apparently, on any day of the week, more than one-third of America’s children and teens consume meals from McDonald’s and similar outlets. Steinman says,

The dark truth about America’s fast food is that it has become an industrial-delivery system that concentrates pesticides, synthetic hormones, and industrial chemicals into one highly toxic happy meal with dire consequences for children’s health.

Traditionally, most critics and opponents of fast food have focused on the salt, sugar, and fat content, and it is difficult to get kids riled up about any of those ingredients — possibly because they fit into the above-mentioned ancestral drives. But industrial chemicals and bacterial contamination strike a different chord. Steinman contends that children as young as five can be educated to find some things repulsive, and develop the motivation to refuse them. He notes,

Each bite of a quarter pounder with cheese had some 8.8 chemical residues, including relatively high amounts of pesticides such as DDT and its related compounds…

And chicken nuggets? Good grief, scientists who tested 44 samples found 266 residues of such chemicals as organophosphate pesticides which “interfere with nerve transmission by inhibiting the action of acetylcholinesterase and are associated with increased risk for ADHD and autism…” The reader may question the concept of pesticides in chicken, but no, they are in the flour that makes up the coating of the nuggets.

Beef tacos and tostadas are awful too, with 334 chemical residues, including pesticides and packaging materials, found in 44 samples. And which menu item delivers the most toxic payload, including acrylamide and other fancy-named carcinogens? The answer is — ta-da! — french-fried potatoes.

Don’t eat that, eat this

If the family must procure fast food, grilled chicken is the safer bet, because hormones are forbidden in poultry, and the preparation method does not include a coating laced with chemicals and permeated with grease. Steinman writes,

Poultry also has less fat, which means less fat-loving chemicals like DDT. Turkey is even more pure than chicken, according to the FDA. What’s more, the cold cuts used at Subway restaurants are free from nitrite.

The best choice of all, of course, would be to shun fast food altogether. (Hey, we can hear you laughing.)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Dark Side of Happy Meals,”, 08/18/21
Image by Pascal Terjan/CC BY-SA 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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