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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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From The New Yorker
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
She explores food adulteration and finds that most of what was said to be used couldn't have been used. A rather repetitive book basically.Published 15 days ago by P. Lenagh
Great book about the history of food fraud. Economic development and urban lifestyle drives food production from hand-made to factory-made and consumers need to be better informed... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fascinating book and is a real eye opener on food fraud. I think that GMO and FDA labeling also needs inclusion today.Published 11 months ago by Marcia M.
I have been eating stuff for almost all my life. And a pretty careful about stuff, including growing my own organic produce. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Pete
A good insight into the HISTORY of food swindles, how they were detected, and more recently, what are the issues facing the community. Mostly history-based, but still a good read. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Edward D and Family
The first part of this book was a little dry but as it progressed it became more relatable to present times. Very well documented and chilling enough to keep your attention. Read morePublished on December 16, 2013 by L. A. Calkins
this book will scare the knot outta your head reading about the crap that has gone on behind the scenes in our food deliverly/manufacturing. and it isn't fiction, its real life.Published on November 20, 2013 by L Brown
Bee Wilson is a great writer, and she has a fascinating tale to tell. The story of food adulteration in history is interesting like a crime novel, and yet has no obvious home in... Read morePublished on October 5, 2013 by EIreland