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Comment: Condition: Excellent condition., Excellent condition dust jacket. Binding: Hardcover. / Publisher: Princeton University Press / Pub. Date: 2008-09-08 Attributes: Book, 400 pp / Stock#: 2065583 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee Hardcover – September 8, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st edition (September 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691138206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138206
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Columnist and food writer Wilson takes readers to the beginning of the 19th century to document the history of food adulteration--at heart "two very simple principles: poisoning and cheating." concentrating on Britain and the U.S. (other countries, especially France, navigated food supply industrialization with wiser government policy), Wilson finds the first food crusader in Frederick Accum, a German immigrant who used chemistry to expose the dishonesty of London food purveyors in his treatise on adulterations of food and culinary poisons; she finds the first ineffective government response in Parliament's commitment to laissez faire economic policies over citizen safety. In the U.S., New York's 1850s "swill milk" epidemic and Chicago's meat packing industry would eventually lead to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug act--which probably wouldn't have passed without the popularity of Upton Sinclair's meat packing expose The Jungle, and couldn't stop the most nefarious and prevalent of food frauds, the development of fake foods: margarine, baby formula and thousands more. Wilson follows the economic, cultural and political threads skillfully, reporting on developments as recent as the China baby formula scandal. Prescribing more awareness and regulation, Wilson contends that consumers and governments must recognize the continuous pressure on companies to make money by substituting nutritious, genuine ingredients with adulterants. Timely, witty and purposeful, this thorough history should open a lot of eyes, and close some mouths.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

With the revelations in recent months of tainted food�salmonella-infected jalape�os, melamine-laced milk�Wilson�s latest treatise, on contaminated, adulterated, and fake foods in the modern era, feels almost prophetic. If there�s a whiff of pedantry to the enterprise, Wilson overwhelms it with sheer detail: the flavor of lead salts, so delicious that they were used to sweeten wine; the fad for mock food in wartime Britain (mock chops made of flour, potato, and onion); the fact that Campbell�s concealed marbles in the soup photographed for advertisements, to make it look thicker; Donald Rumsfeld�s role as a champion of aspartame. No government intervention can solve the problem, Wilson concludes, without consumer re�ducation in how real food tastes. �Buy food fresh, in whole form,� she writes. �Cook it yourself and familiarize yourself with the ingredients that go into proper food, so that when you are served a fake you will know the difference, and have the confidence to complain.�
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

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Further Reading If you're interested in this topic, Marion Nestle has many books out about food.
Alice Friedemann
The book opened my eyes to my local grocery store and its pushed me even more toward eating locally grown foods as well as real foods, not processed.
A Reader
What's amazing is that the history she documents for Britain and the US in the 19th century is exactly what is happening right now in China.
S. Hoffman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By S. Hoffman on November 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The first time I went to the grocery store after finishing this book, I found myself unable to buy formerly favorite products. The documentation of the way food is altered, adjusted, shaped, and -- yes -- adulterated is both convincing and habit-changing.

Bee Wilson takes a subject that could easily be dull and turns it into a fascinating history of the industrialization of the food supply. She also describes how food detectives in both England and the United States worked to clean up the food supply and how legislatures in both countries, enamored with laissez-faire economic policies, repeatedly refused to pass laws to protect the public from unscrupulous food vendors.

What's amazing is that the history she documents for Britain and the US in the 19th century is exactly what is happening right now in China. In fact the publication of this book coincided with the latest scandal of food contamination in China -- the addition of melamine to milk products that caused the deaths of at least 6 children in China and severe kidney disease in thousands of other children. Contaminated milk products from China have even been imported to the Japan and the US, despite these countries' regulatory structures.

EVERYONE WHO EATS should read this book and use the information Ms. Wilson provides to improve their personal food supply. The only way we can ensure that our food is healthful and not contaminated is to "vote with our dollars" and only buy food that we know is safe. It's hard to do, but not impossible. I now read labels of everything I buy and reject foods processed or imported from countries such as China which do not have strong protective laws. I have also written letters opposing the plan to have chickens grown in the US processed in China and reimported to the US.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on November 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It sounds like a page ripped from today's headlines: Chinese babies dying from fraudulent baby milk.
However, British food journalist Bee Wilson's "Swindled" isn't quite that up to the minute. Her chapter on dying Chinese babies is not about today's cow's milk tainted with melamine but 2004's scandal about fake formula.
But the recurrence nicely illustrates her thesis that food fraud has always been and will always be with us. And, she says, people in advanced countries with well-established regulatory agencies should not be so confident they are, indeed, what they think they eat.
From plutocrats being palmed off with sevruga caviar at beluga prices (but who cares?), to mislabeled Chilean sea bass to (although she doesn't mention this one) Starbucks' selling cheap Central American java for genuine Kona, there are recent frauds aplenty.
Wilson is, no contest, the best stylist writing about food for newspapers in English (in the Sunday Telegraph), and her chapters on the early history of food fraud are strong stuff.
She makes the point that the longer the chain from producer to eater, the more opportunities for chicanery, and the more difficult it becomes to detect the fraud.
Scientific aids begin with Frederick Accum in 1820, one of several odd ducks Wilson profiles in the history of food safety; but scientific frauds have more than kept pace with detection methods.
In her later chapters, Wilson displays a bee in her bonnet about GMOs (although she has little to say about this); and a touching but misplaced faith in the superiority of organic food, however defined.
Her complaint that people cannot recognize good food because they have never tasted it is at least partly valid.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By William P. Palmer on December 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review of Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee by Bee Wilson in 2008 published by Princeton University Press (Princeton & Oxford).

Reviewer: Dr W. P. Palmer

I very much enjoyed this book, which I purchased to see what it added to the story of Frederick Accum, whose life I was researching at the time. I found that the writing combined genuine scholarship and the telling of fascinating stories of the various people who in different ways have contributed towards the safety of our food. I always fear that books on food may be written by `food cranks' based on their own `crackpot' theories. This book is NOT like that and gives a true and accurate account the very considerable progress that has been made in the safe preparation of common foods which in the early Nineteenth Century could contain poisonous chemicals.

The first portion of the book mainly concerns the life of Frederick Accum. Accum was born on March 29th, 1769 in Bückeburg, Germany. He moved to Britain in 1793 and five years later he started his own business as a chemical analyst and vendor of chemical equipment. He had several other chemically related positions, for example as a lecturer, an expert witness, an author and as a researcher. In 1820 he wrote a book, entitled A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisonsin which he described many food staples including cream, confectionary, pepper, tea, coffee, spirituous liquors, milk, meat, vegetables as being deliberately adulterated and he named those responsible.
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