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What Happened to Food?

book reviews

by Andrew Elias

PEOPLE HAVE NEVER been more concerned about their diet and about the food they and their families eat. We are well-aware that most of us consume far too much sugar and salt and fat, but not always educated about the extent to which they have been insinuated and infiltrated into every corner of our food pyramid. And fewer of us are aware of the very deliberate, strategic and scientific methods that agri-chemical corporations have employed for decades to assure massive private profits at the expense of poor public health.

Several new books have been published recently that investigate the history and science behind the drive towards smart eating and the constant battle for healthy food.

Fat Chance
Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food,
Obesity, and Disease

by Robert H. Lustig
Hudson Street Press

Lustig is best known for his YouTube documentary, Sugar: The Bitter Truth. Fat Chance is his follow up, not only presenting more evidence of the toxicity of sugar and the disastrous effects its growing consumption is having on the hormones that regulate hunger, weight and metabolism, he also offers realistic recommendations for both personal solutions and realistic public policy suggestions. Lustig posits that the nation’s obesity epidemic is less the fault of personal gluttony and inactivity and more the design of a huge food industry enabled by a misguided government. Informative and enlightening, Lustig manages to find humor in a deadly serious health crisis.

Bet the Farm
How Food Stopped Being Food
by Frederick Kaufman
Wiley

Farmers grow enough food to easily feed the world’s entire population and yet more people are starving than ever. In Bet the Farm Kaufman investigates why the food we eat is getting less healthy and less delicious at the same time the world’s biggest food companies are enjoying their largest profits. He delves into the science, politics and even the financialization of food. He considers the pros and cons of genetically modified foods and the hidden connection between global food and global food system. He explains how the global food commodity markets are having far-reaching geo-political impacts. Bet the Farm is an alarming indictment of an industry that is driven by marketing and money at the expense of nutrition and the environment.

Salt Sugar Fat
How the Food Giants Hooked Us
by Michael Moss
Random House

Moss, a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at The New York Times tells the story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. He explains how corporations have hooked the nation on salt, sugar and fat – and also offers concrete ways to fight back. He takes us inside the research labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the ‘bliss point’ of sugary beverages or enhance the ‘mouthfeel’ of fat by manipulating its chemical structure, and behind the scenes of marketing campaigns deviously designed to redirect real health concerns and how the most alluring products – those with the highest amounts of salt, sugar and fat – are strategically placed in supermarkets and on grocery shelves. Moss paints a bleak picture of a food and chemical industry as addicted to the profits harvested from sugar, salt and fat as their customers are addicted to the tastes. He also has suggestions for how to best to combat these forces through education, investigation and vigilance.

Foodopoly
The Battle Over the Future of Food
and Farming in America
by Wenonah Hauter
The New Press

As one of the nation’s leading healthy food advocates, Hauter believes that the local food movement is not enough to solve America’s interrelated food and health crisis. She identifies the real culprit as the consolidation and corporate control of food production, which prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices for consumers. Through meticulous research, she presents a startling account of how agricultural policy has been hijacked by lobbyists for agri-business at the expense of independent farmers and explains the wide-ranging economic, cultural, ecological and nutritional impact – and how consolidation, deregulation and corruption are exasperating the crisis. Thankfully, after identifying the problems plaguing our food supply, diets and health, Hauter also explains how solving this crisis will require both personal activism and grass-roots politics to reshape our food system from farm to table . •

May-June 2013












Fat Chance blames the
food industry for the
nation’s obesity epidemic.
Kaufman’s Bet the Farm
explores the science
and poltics of the
global food crisis.
Moss explains that the food
and chemical industries are
as addicted to salt, sugar
and fat as we are.
Foodopoly identifies the
problems plaguing our
food supply and ways
to combat them.