In the U.S., we're bombarded with nutritional advice--the work, we assume, of reliable authorities with our best interests at heart. Far from it, says Marion Nestle, whose Food Politics
absorbingly details how the food industry--through lobbying, advertising, and the co-opting of experts--influences our dietary choices to our detriment. Central to her argument is the American "paradox of plenty," the recognition that our food abundance (we've enough calories to meet every citizen's needs twice over) leads profit-fixated food producers to do everything possible to broaden their market portion, thus swaying us to eat more
when we should do the opposite. The result is compromised health: epidemic obesity to start, and increased vulnerability to heart and lung disease, cancer, and stroke--reversible if the constantly suppressed "eat less, move more" message that most nutritionists shout could be heard.
Nestle, nutrition chair at New York University and editor of the 1988 Surgeon General Report, has served her time in the dietary trenches and is ideally suited to revealing how government nutritional advice is watered down when a message might threaten industry sales. (Her report on byzantine nutritional food-pyramid rewordings to avoid "eat less" recommendations is both predictable and astonishing.) She has other "war stories," too, that involve marketing to children in school (in the form of soft-drink "pouring rights" agreements, hallway advertising, and fast-food coupon giveaways), and diet-supplement dramas in which manufacturers and the government enter regulation frays, with the industry championing "free choice" even as that position counters consumer protection. Is there hope? "If we want to encourage people to eat better diets," says Nestle, "we need to target societal means to counter food industry lobbying and marketing practices as well as the education of individuals." It's a telling conclusion in an engrossing and masterfully panoramic exposé. --Arthur Boehm
From Library Journal
Nestle (chair, nutrition and food studies, NYU) offers an expos of the tactics used by the food industry to protect its economic interests and influence public opinion. She shows how the industry promotes sales by resorting to lobbying, lawsuits, financial contributions, public relations, advertising, alliances, and philanthropy to influence Congress, federal agencies, and nutrition and health professionals. She also describes the food industry's opposition to government regulation, its efforts to discredit nutritional recommendations while pushing soft drinks to children via alliances with schools, and its intimidation of critics who question its products or its claims. Nestle berates the food companies for going to great lengths to protect what she calls "techno-foods" by confusing the public regarding distinctions among foods, supplements, and drugs, thus making it difficult for federal regulators to guard the public. She urges readers to inform themselves, choose foods wisely, demand ethical behavior and scientific honesty, and promote better cooperation among industry and government. This provocative work will cause quite a stir in food industry circles. Highly recommended. Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll., NY
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