Top critical review
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on August 3, 2010
This review is of the updated (2010) edition of Professor Nestle's book first published in 2003.
While the main body of the text is full of examples that now seem far away in time, this book remains worth reading for those seeking an understanding of the cross currents still alive in the national policy debates over safe food. (For those following current events, there is pending legislation in the U.S. Senate that would reform federal food safety policy.)
I do think the author is correct in her assertion that food safety is as much about politics as science. Social norms, commercial realities, and other factors often do trump pure science.
This is decidedly a book written by an advocate: one who sees corporations as bad actors (unless the firm is Ben and Jerry's) and one who is sold on both a King's Cure--human pathogen testing and HACCP--and, above all, one single federal food agency.
Professor Nestle believes that with more government inspectors working for one powerful food agency, all auditing and enforcing private farms' and processors' paper-work systems, which in turn would be based on the best available science (unless some other social good trumps), we would have a country with fewer people sick from what they eat.
Meanwhile, I think most people in American agriculture do have good motives and find it amazing that this country feeds 300 hundred-plus million every day with so relatively few food safety incidents.