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.
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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.�
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