Customer Reviews: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health, Revised and Expanded Edition (California Studies in Food and Culture)
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on September 2, 2009
Originally published in 2002 and updated in 2007 Marion Nestle's "Food Politics" is an informative if academic read. She explains clearly and patiently how the food industry has co-opted nutritionists, government agencies, and schools, threatening the health and safety of consumers and children. And when they cannot co-opt they choose to misinform, lie, slander, or sue, as when Texas cattlemen sued Oprah Winfrey. Especially frustrating is how, thanks to their successful lobbying and close government connections (there seems to be a revolving door between the Food & Drug Administration and the executive suites of food conglomerates such as Monsanto) the food industry can legally mislabel their products to misinform consumers. This is especially true for vitamin supplements, which can make a lot of outrageous claims without ever having to go through FDA approval.

The only problem with the book is that it is perhaps too right. Since the initial publication of "Food Politics," a lot of other books, sometimes based on the original insights offered in "Food Politics," have been published that gives readers a more comprehensive and disturbing look into the manipulations and machinations of the vast and powerful food industry. And this past summer a documentary called "Food, Inc." came out, which puts in stunning and striking visual context the problems with the food industry. Even Marion Nestle's new book "What to Eat" distills all the insights from her first work.

Reading "Food Politics" then is slightly redundant. That is not the fault of the author. Indeed, it's a testament to how influential the book has become.
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on July 26, 2012
First, I have to commend Nestle, the author, for doing the near-impossible feat of providing highly controversial facts and information in a clear manner, which is so damning that you cannot help but feel yourself transform your thoughts about food - and she does it without lecturing the reader. Bravo!

Some passages that particularly sat with me included, "Surveys indicate that people are interested in nutritional and health but are confused by conflicting information, suffer from "nutritional schizophrenia," and cannot figure out how to achieve "nutritional utopia." (p.91) [Indeed... and there's a billion-dollar industry counting on that!] "The hundreds of millions of dollars available to the meat and dairy lobbies through check-off programs, and the billions of dollars that food companies spend on advertising and lawsuits, so far exceed both the amounts spent by the federal government on nutrition advice for the public and the annual budget of any consumer advocacy group that they cannot be considered in the same stratosphere." (p.171) "Researches counted not a single commercial for fruits, vegetables, bread, or fish." (p.182) "It seems reasonable to expect that everyone would be concerned about whether supplements are safe, whether they do what they claim to do, and whether the benefit of taking them outweighs any financial or health risks they might induce." (p.220) "Because all foods and drinks include ingredients (calories, nutrients, or water) that are essential for life, any one of them has the potential to be marketed for its health benefits." (p.315) "Food package labels are the result of politics, not science, and [have] become so opaque or confusing that only consumers with the hermeneutic abilities of a Talmudic scholar can peel back the encoded layers of meaning. That is because labels spring not from disinterested scientific reasoning but from lobbying, negotiation, and compromise." (p.249)

This is a GREAT book, though towards the end my brain lost the ability to analyze the information (fact overload), but overall it was an important read and I'm glad I made my way through it. I wish there was a Reader's Digest condensed version. This is not for everyone, and definitely not a "light" read. But if you commit to reading it, digesting it, really thinking about it... your life will benefit from doing so. In the end, Nestle has left me frustrated and angry and sad and, in general, just simply emotional. Through her matter-of-fact writing tone and reserved bias throughout the book, I am left to think whatever I want of the information she has spread before me. And it pisses me off.
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on October 30, 2012
The book, however lengthy, does cover the subject in most basic historical time and is a good read of the subject. Altho,it is a sholarly work it has benefit for a health care worker interested in the subject.

The Kindle edition does not show the graphs and charts in a readable way and is a major drawback from a paper edition.

My credit to the author for the many years of labor over this work.

Gilbert Kleiff
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on May 18, 2009
I plowed my way through this book across many late-nights at my favorite 24/7 coffee bar, easily ignoring all of the "local atmosphere."

If you can handle heavy academic reading, this book is practically a Woodward & Bernstein thriller -- an extremely engrossing exposé concerning the VERY ugly political underbelly of the American food industry, and how it chugs away to keep all of us as confused as possible about our food choices and what honestly constitutes sound nutritional guidance.

If you're boggled by choices that SHOULD be simple, such as trying to figure out whether it's healthier to eat butter or some chemical facsimile which includes ingredients you couldn't pronounce to save your grandmother's soul, the spotlight on politics in this book will salve your frazzled mind. The decades of political insanity and posturing surrounding something so seemingly simple as [what food pyramid version is permitted in schools] says so much about the ENTIRE industry. Don't feel badly if you're a bit confused about "good nutrition," because you are NOT alone. Scores of millions of Americans feel the EXACT same way ... and Big Food likes it that way!

Nestle's writing does indeed get rather heady in some sections; however, she's challenging decades of contradiction, confusion, obfuscation, and outright lies that Big Food has tried to sell to America, so it really is necessary for her to preemptively buttress herself against anticipated challenges from Big Food and their seemingly-endless supply of lawyers and lobbyists. Ignore the negative reviews.

If heady, heavily-cited reading is NOT your thing, feel free to check out the [similar reading] suggestions, because there will probably arrive some point (or several) at which you REALLY want to throw this book at the wall. Just an honest observation.
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on July 8, 2013
This book was assigned to read for class in my graduate nutrition program. Definitely an amazing, eye-opening book. I'm so glad I've read it and feel like it should be required for everyone to read! I found myself shaking my head at almost every page and reading parts out loud to those around me. I found it to be a pretty easy read, although some parts were repetitive. However, this would make it easy to just choose specific chapters if you didn't want to read the whole book.
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on February 9, 2015
If you really want to know what goes on with food, read this instead of the goofy fad diet stuff. Marion Nestle, PhD, knows her stuff and writes in a very readable and engaging style without fudging the facts.
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on March 30, 2014
Marion Nestle wrote how the food industry influences nutrition and health. Politics, government and the Food Industry are influencing the way consumers eat.We are totally being controlled as to the way we eat. It is not a free country. We need to break free of the food industry and select the food, which is more beneficial for the human body.
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on January 29, 2015
Dr. Nestle is the best. An exceptional book with amazing information that's so easy to read you'll wonder why America is so obese. Oh yeah, it's because reading isn't cool anymore or something ridiculous.
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on February 20, 2014
It took me 9 months to make it through Food Politics. The topic is relevant and it's interesting to compare the food industry political landscape at the time most of the book was written to where we are now. However, despite my intense interest in nutrition and health, I found it very dry at times--hence the long timeline from start to finish. The drier portions consist of detailed timelines of the history of, say, supplement labeling regulation over a period of 20 (or more) years, followed by Nestle's much shorter analysis. When I purchased the book, I hoped for more of the latter. Some of the more interesting sections included the chapters on marketing to kids and Olestra. I'm in my late 20's, so I distinctly remember a lot of the products that the book talks about that are no longer in existence, and it's thought-provoking to see that we were essentially brainwashed as kids. These days, I maybe consume a gallon of milk every six months, but I never once questioned the food pyramid as the ultimate guide to my diet up until early in high school, and it turns out that was probably the exact intent of the meat, dairy, and farming industries. I think that most people reading this book now were turned onto it by learning about the industry politics (and lies) elsewhere and are just seeking more details about the extent of it, but it would be helpful if the book was written (or revised) more in a way to actually introduce less-exposed/educated readers to that concept as a new idea. Although it's 2014 and so many more people are conscious of where their food is coming from than 10 or 20 years ago, many still are not. Nonetheless, the topic and takeaways are important, so if you have the stamina for the factual writing style, I would recommend it.
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on March 5, 2015
Very good very important topic. This book highlights the clash of values between the public interest and the profit motive. Some commodities such as food have a social impact and this should override the profit motive. The book highlights the lack of integrity in the multinational world and the problems associated with lobbying by special interest groups. Things have become worse since this book was written. It should be compulsory read from any health professional and dare I say it politician. Is it to late to bring integrity back into agriculture and nutritional advice and training. The FDA have a lot to answer for.
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