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Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (California Studies in Food and Culture) Paperback – September 30, 2003
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In the U.S., we're bombarded with nutritional advice--the work, we assume, of reliable authorities with our best interests at heart. Far from it, says Marion Nestle, whose Food Politics absorbingly details how the food industry--through lobbying, advertising, and the co-opting of experts--influences our dietary choices to our detriment. Central to her argument is the American "paradox of plenty," the recognition that our food abundance (we've enough calories to meet every citizen's needs twice over) leads profit-fixated food producers to do everything possible to broaden their market portion, thus swaying us to eat more when we should do the opposite. The result is compromised health: epidemic obesity to start, and increased vulnerability to heart and lung disease, cancer, and stroke--reversible if the constantly suppressed "eat less, move more" message that most nutritionists shout could be heard.
Nestle, nutrition chair at New York University and editor of the 1988 Surgeon General Report, has served her time in the dietary trenches and is ideally suited to revealing how government nutritional advice is watered down when a message might threaten industry sales. (Her report on byzantine nutritional food-pyramid rewordings to avoid "eat less" recommendations is both predictable and astonishing.) She has other "war stories," too, that involve marketing to children in school (in the form of soft-drink "pouring rights" agreements, hallway advertising, and fast-food coupon giveaways), and diet-supplement dramas in which manufacturers and the government enter regulation frays, with the industry championing "free choice" even as that position counters consumer protection. Is there hope? "If we want to encourage people to eat better diets," says Nestle, "we need to target societal means to counter food industry lobbying and marketing practices as well as the education of individuals." It's a telling conclusion in an engrossing and masterfully panoramic exposé. --Arthur Boehm
From Library Journal
Nestle (chair, nutrition and food studies, NYU) offers an expos of the tactics used by the food industry to protect its economic interests and influence public opinion. She shows how the industry promotes sales by resorting to lobbying, lawsuits, financial contributions, public relations, advertising, alliances, and philanthropy to influence Congress, federal agencies, and nutrition and health professionals. She also describes the food industry's opposition to government regulation, its efforts to discredit nutritional recommendations while pushing soft drinks to children via alliances with schools, and its intimidation of critics who question its products or its claims. Nestle berates the food companies for going to great lengths to protect what she calls "techno-foods" by confusing the public regarding distinctions among foods, supplements, and drugs, thus making it difficult for federal regulators to guard the public. She urges readers to inform themselves, choose foods wisely, demand ethical behavior and scientific honesty, and promote better cooperation among industry and government. This provocative work will cause quite a stir in food industry circles. Highly recommended. Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll., NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
This book's basic premise is that the food industry's purpose is to sell as much food as possible. The food industry doesn't care about its consumers and encourages them to eat more than they need, produces lots of useless, cheap, junk food, and will do whatever it can within the political system (mostly legal, but sometimes illegal. The author documents one such example of price collusion) to set up an environment that is the most favorable to its interests.
The book documents how the FDA, Congress, and government agencies are influenced by the food industry. It provides details about the food industry's lobbying, studies and research grants funded by various segments of the food industry, the food industry's attempts to gain brand loyalty though school contracts, conflicts with the school lunch program, and attempts to maximize sales through bonuses for the schools. It chronicles the rise of the supplement industry and their involvement with the FDA.
The author does seem to have a somewhat leftist agenda in the last chapter in giving recommendations; but with that exception, I thought the overall tone of the book was neutral and strictly documentary. It's good solid book which people who are interested in their health or the American food industry should read.
Please read this. Borrow from the library if necessary, but I purchased it and highlighted so many great thoughts so I could show others.
If you read any book about health or nutrition, make this the one. (Then read the China Study, by T.Colin Campbell)
In fact, this business success story has resulted in a generation of Americans who are significantly overweight compared with their predecessors. Nestle shows that public relations and government lobbying result in obfuscation and mixed messages about the relative values of certain foods; this generally confuses Americans and makes it difficult to get the "eat less" message. Interestingly, she reveals that the amount of sweets and snack foods consumed are in almost exact proportion to the advertising dollars spent promoting these foods, suggesting that limits on advertising junk food to children might be a reasonable first step in addressing this problem.
But Nestle is particularly critical of the criminally poor quality of the nation's public school lunch program and the "pouring rights" contracts struck with soft drink companies by cash-starved school districts. Our country's apparent unwilingness to provide nutritious meals to our schoolchildren is shameful, and Nestle should be congratulated for bringing the situation to light.
Other noteworthy sections of the book address the deregulation of dietary supplements and the invention of "techno-foods", ie foods that have been fortified with vitamins, minerals or herbal ingredients. The overall picture is one of regulators on the defensive and huckster capitalism run rampant. While it was disturbing but not too surprising to learn about relatively obscure supplement makers making absurd claims for products that have little scientifically proven value, it was somewhat amusing to see a reprint of a short-lived advertisement for Heinz ketchup that promoted its supposed cancer-fighting properties. It appears there are no limits to what kinds of food products might be similarly reinvented by marketers in their quest for higher profits.
In the closing chapter, Nestle proposes a number of useful solutions. Her ideas are reasonable and display a maturity gained through many years spent in government and academia. In an environment where food choices and information surrounding food products are increasingly difficult to understand, let's hope that this book inspires us all to demand greater accountability from the food companies that feed us. Highly recommended!
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As one reviewer mentioned I think the bulk of negative reviewers have not actually read this book.Read more