Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation

Prepping for ‘Fast Food Nation’

Tess Vigeland May 18, 2006
Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation

KAI RYSSDAL: OK, now that “The DaVinci Code” has bombed with critics, what’s left at the Cannes film festival? How about a burger and fries? A fictionalized movie of the non-fiction bestseller “Fast Food Nation” debuts at Cannes tomorrow. Eric Schlosser’s book came out back in 2001. It follows meat and produce from the farm to the warming tray. The fast-food chains say the book had nothing to do with McSalads and the like, but they’re going after the movie months before it opens here. We ordered up a story from Marketplace’s Tess Vigeland.

TESS VIGELAND:“Fast Food Nation,” the movie, certainly doesn’t shy from the book’s thesis that when you walk into a fast food restaurant you’re treating yourself to a health risk.

[MOVIE CLIP: “The fecal coliform counts were just off the charts. You understand what I’m saying? (Not exactly…) I’m saying there’s sh(bleep) in the meat.”]

The food industry lost its lunch over the book when it first came out . . .

Now it’s preparing for another round of controversy over food safety, fair labor practices and nutrition.

Eighteen trade groups, from the Snack Food Association to the American Farm Bureau, banded together to create a website called “Best Food Nation.”

Farmers, ranchers, meatpackers and inspectors talk about the importance of US agriculture.

Kendall Frazier is a spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

KENDALL FRAZIER:“I would hope that the American consumer would realize that this is fiction. I’ve not seen the movie but I have seen them say it’s fiction and this is Hollywood, this is entertainment and it’s not the real story.”

The PR efforts are also a response to a children’s book version of “Fast Food Nation” called “Chew On This” that hit shelves this month.

Restaurant industry consultant Dennis Lombardi says there’s a fine line between rebutting accusations and looking scared.

DENNIS LOMBARDI:“We’ve gotta make sure that we don’t create so much of an alarm that people begin to think that there is more fire than there is smoke at this point. You don’t want it to come out as political spin.”

Fox Searchlight Pictures is expected to release “Fast Food Nation,” the movie, later this year.

In Los Angeles, I’m Tess Vigeland for Marketplace.

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