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Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine Hardcover – July 15, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For author and public health professor Nestle (Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health), the March 2007 pet food recall was the canary in the coal mine that would lead to a blitz of questions regarding the safety of imported food and goods. Begging comparison with Sinclair's The Jungle, Nestle begins with a real-life whodunit, tracing an outbreak of kidney failure deaths among cats and then dogs. A major pet food manufacturer had recently switched wheat gluten suppliers, paying 20 to 30 percent less to a broker importing from China (natch). Soon, it's revealed that two Chinese suppliers were passing off cheaper, toxic additives as gluten. As Nestle demonstrates, it's the tip of the iceberg; unraveling the links among "food safety, health policy, international trade, and the relationship of corporations to government," Nestle examines continuing food scandals, as well as the Chinese toy scare. Nestle finds most fault with the FDA; "still operating under food and drug laws passed in 1906 and modified in 1938," it's a systematically underfunded organization with an ever-increasing mandate and ever-shrinking powers of oversight. Though informative, this quick, clarifying read might easily make you sick to your stomach.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Nestle is one of the best writers on the general subject of the food industry. . .. Guaranteed to get you thinking."--"Booklist"

"Informative. . . Begging comparison with Sinclair's The Jungle."--"Publishers Weekly"

"Reads like a gripping murder mystery."--"Alternet.org"

"Like a good novel, the book is a quick, even entertaining read. The message, however, is one that demands paying attention."--"San Francisco Chronicle"

"Iluminate(s) the connections between the food supplies of humans, farm animals and pets. . . . Highlight(s) the broader failings of food regulation."--"The Economist"

"Fantastically readable."--"Food & Wine"

"A detective story that identifies plenty of perpetrators as well as victims. . . .[Warns] that the problems wouldn't stop with animals"--"Atlantic"

"The information and its implications are eye-opening. It's a call to action that we can all hope the new Obama administration hears."--Gina Spadafori"The Daily Citizen" (01/23/2009)

The information and its implications are eye-opening. It s a call to action that we can all hope the new Obama administration hears. --Gina Spadafori"The Daily Citizen" (01/23/2009)"
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520257812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520257818
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,656,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003. She also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley.

She has held faculty positions at Brandeis University and the UCSF School of Medicine. From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health.

Her research examines scientific, economic, and social influences on food choice and obesity, with an emphasis on the role of food marketing.

She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (California Press, 2002, revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (California Press, 2003, revised edition 2010), and What to Eat (North Point Press, 2006). Her latest book, Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, was published by California Press in 2008. Feed Your Pet Right, co-authored with Malden Nesheim, will be published by Free Press in May, 2010.

She writes the Food Matters column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and blogs daily (almost) at www.foodpolitics.com and for the Atlantic Food Channel at http://amcblogmte4.atlantic-media.us/food/nutrition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Marion Nestle's book "Pet Food Politics" is about the pet food recall of 2007. For those of you who don't remember, there was a massive recall of pet food last summer. The recall began with cat food manufactured by Menu Foods (but sold under many other brand names including Iams, Nutro, and Hill's), but expanded into a large number of cat and dog foods under many different brand names. It became clear after the recall that the problem occurred because an unscrupulous Chinese supplier sold a mixture of wheat flour, cyanuric acid, and melamine as wheat gluten. As a pet owner, the recall inconvenienced me (I had to change my cats' foods). As a parent, I became greatly concerned about what I was feeding my daughter and began seriously looking at where the food I bought was produced. I bought this book because I wanted to better understand what happened.

I knew the basic story here, but did not know about the total number of pets who died (likely in the thousands), the reasons why melamine was substituted for the wheat gluten (cheap melamine looks like expensive protein when tested using standard industrial tests), nor what happened to the contaminated pet food (it was fed to livestock and made it into the human food chain).

This book is a fast read and is clear, well written, and very interesting. Unfortunately, it is too brief. I wish that Ms. Nestle had taken this opportunity to explain more about the pet food industry: its history, the major players, the processes used to make pet food. The story is fascinating, but it feels more like a New Yorker article than a book.

I would recommend this book to someone who was interested in the pet food recalls, though I think that most readers should start with other books about food production.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a page-turner - and not just because it shows all the twists and turns that went on behind the scenes in the pet food recall. It is an eye-opener about the lack of government oversight or pet food company responsibility for what goes into pet food or how it is made. Just as the title makes clear, this is not a book about pet food manufacture and ingredients - that is the book the author was working on when the pet food recall happened. THAT book is forthcoming. This book is exactly what the title says: it's about the politics of pet food manufacture and sales and how our chihuahuas have been the sentinels as a wake-up call that our human food industry is no better. The author is neutral and balanced and generously gives benefit-of-the-doubt to the various players in this dangerous food drama, a fiasco that still haunts many of us with dogs and cats. Nestle's lack of judgmentalism is actually great because it allows you as the reader to discover how it all worked and bring your own moral indignation to the table, as it were. This book is like following a detective looking for an explanation of the economic,business, political and social elements that conspired to bring about a horrible Perfect Storm of tainted food. I was absolutely riveted by the meticulous research that went into unraveling the mystery and uncovering the obfuscation by many of the participants. As the author of "The Dog Bible" I can attest how hard some information is to come by, especially in nutrition, so I was so impressed by this book that I invited the author, Marion Nestle, onto my live NPR radio show DOG TALK on September 27th. You can sign up for the free podcast or listen live online and decide for yourselves. I say she's done a brilliant job and given us a really significant heads-up for ourselves as well as our pets. I will wager that you'll click on "buy now" once you've heard her talk.
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Format: Hardcover
Marion Nestle presents an insightful, disturbing analysis of the recent contamination of many popular brands of pet food by melamine, an industrial waste chemical. She prints a list of affected brands at the back of the book and I was horrified to discover that the "high quality" mail order food I was feeding two of my dogs was on the list (although I have not had any problems). Even more disturbingly, she discusses how the globalization of food distribution has put not just pet food but human food at risk. Just after I finished reading this book, reports of melamine-laced milk products sickening thousands of babies in China appeared in the major news outlets. Everyone, not just pet owners, should read this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When my cat was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, I started taking an even greater interest in the food she was eating. They say diet and lifestyle has a far greater influence on whether you get cancer or not than genetics or predisposition, but our pets don't choose their lifestyles OR their food, we choose for them. So, imagine my shock in 2007 when the premium and specialty foods I was feeding my two cats were part of a massive petfood recall!
It wasn't until I read this book that I understood why so many different foods under so many different brands were affected by the same recall (and shocked to find out Asia had a similar recall for the exact same reason not that long before the 2007 recall.) It shows a huge flaw in not just our pet food supply system but also our own food supply system. My cat recently passed away, just over five years after first being diagnosed with cancer. I guess that's pretty good when you consider that humans are branded cancer "survivors" if they are still around five years after being diagnosed, but meanwhile I spent a lot of time agonizing over what to feed my cats. I currently feed my remaining cat a mostly raw diet with a little bit of canned food and a tiny bit of grain-free dry food...and for myself, personally, I know I'm safe any time I shop at the farmer's market or the local produce store where they have big signs saying what local town the apples or sweetcorn were grown in, but every time I pick up food in a box or a can I wonder...where did all those ingredients come from, and are they really what they say they are? The bottom line is...we don't know what's in our pets pre-prepared foods...or our own...and it's scary.
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Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine
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