A few years back, I read the book ‘Fat Land.’ that dealt with the eating habits of mainly American society leading to greater and greater levels of obesity. Even though it discussed mainly American society, I thought it still readily applicable since their influences reaches many other countries. Fat Land focused especially on the effects of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a by product so sweet and cheap it is used everywhere but with the hidden cost of excessive amounts of calories.
After reading that book, the book named ‘Food Politics’ jumped out on the shelf. Food Politics compliments Fat Land by covering the “how” industry manipulates the government and the law, instead of the “what” result we have today which the latter book covers. The author, Marion Nestle, also a nutritionist writes about her observations and conclusions after serving on a variety of government boards and committees including the most well known Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I count her as a courageous author, with apparently many others involved in the industry unwilling to publish their opinions in such an open and industry-challenging manner, especially in a litigation friendly country as the United States.
She covers a wide range of topics reaching back to when the government first started advising on the food that the general public should be eating, and the number of events that changed the landscape too what it is today. She discusses the huge amounts of money industry spends on government lobbying, as well as the lesser known and certainly less desirable ways in which companies achieve their objectives without regard to the cost of safety of public health. She writes about the use of fear, confusion, and mass hysteria fuelled through misinformation or conflicts in information to pressure the government into easing their tight regulations as well as the marketing campaigns used to develop wider groups of consumers for their products, specially targeting children and low income earning groups.
It is a tough topic to describe since so many factors affect the choices of people’s food intake including cultural backgrounds, health priorities and financial states. Though not particularly surprised by what Nestle covers, I am sadden by the degree to which companies effectively handicapped the Food and Drug Administration’s capabilities and the result is glut of unhealthy and excessively over-nutritious and under-balanced products saturating the market.
I found it interesting the way in which companies use fortification to get around tight restrictions and responsibilities for ensuring the safety of their foods to boost their bottom line, and more importantly their influence on government with every guideline never recommending “eat less” but rather “eat in moderation”
The author researched the book extremely well and easily cross referenced hundreds of published sources of information. I found the book well balanced in the amount of dry data it offers together with the intimately detailed stories told and fills in a much needed gap not readily available to the public. Though I don’t recommend this as light reading, for answering the question why we have the products we have in stores today.
TheKua.com Rating: 7 out of 10