Thinly sliced: Fast-food drive-thrus are now 20 seconds slower

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Red meat, red-handed. Last week, we blurbed a controversial new analysis that concluded eating red and processed meat isn’t unhealthy after all. A few days later, The New York Times revealed that the lead researcher did not disclose past ties to the International Life Sciences Institute, a food industry-backed group that has been accused of attempting to undermine public health initiatives around the world. In 2016, lead researcher Bradley C. Johnston published a study underwritten by the institute that tried to discredit nutritional guidelines around sugar. The Times did not reveal any fresh conflicts of interest; rather, the story seemed to suggest Johnston should’ve disclosed this past funding in the meat report.

Candy classism. A particularly heinous post is circulating on Twitter via Nextdoor, the “social networking service for neighborhoods” that tends to be the opposite of neighborly (seriously, the company recently added a Kindness Reminder to promote civility). The post claims that residents of a tony neighborhood in California’s Rancho Cucamonga should be handing out full-size candy bars for Halloween rather than cheaper, “fun”-sized alternatives because, well, they can afford to. “Dum Dums, Smarties, and Jolly Ranchers maybe suitable for Ontario, Fontana and even Montclair but not here in Rancho Cucamonga,” the poster wrote. Eater has a take: They’re right.

Slow-food drive-thrus. Beloved for their speed and convenience, fast-food drive-thrus slowed down 20 seconds in 2019, says QSR magazine. Dunkin’ and Wendy’s have the fastest drive-thrus, while Chik-fil-A is the slowest. Are they victims of their own innovations? Maybe. Arby’s COO attributes the extra wait time to sandwiches that are higher in quality, and thereby more time-consuming to produce. The company’s internal target speed for service is 200 seconds, although it’s currently clocking 263.46.

Weighty matter. The World Obesity Federation has released the first Childhood Obesity Atlas, which predicts that 250 million children worldwide will be obese by 2030. As The Guardian reports, of the 191 countries with full data, the United States is in the top 20, with a quarter of children and one in five adolescents currently obese.

Truth be told. USDA has received a lot of blowback for its new pork inspection standards. Workers and advocates have argued that faster meat processing speeds—one of the overhaul’s major changes—will compromise both employee safety and food quality. The new rules, which transfer some food safety oversight from USDA inspectors to plant employees, may have another consequential impact: silencing whistleblowers. While government workers who speak out against wrongdoing have certain statutory protections from retaliation, the primarily immigrant workforces of meat processing facilities may feel less empowered to blow the whistle on their employers, Amanda Hitt argues in an op-ed for Civil Eats.

The Counter Stories by our editors.