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Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine Paperback – August 4, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. For author and public health professor Nestle (Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health), the March 2007 pet food recall was the canary in the coal mine that would lead to a blitz of questions regarding the safety of imported food and goods. Begging comparison with Sinclair's The Jungle, Nestle begins with a real-life whodunit, tracing an outbreak of kidney failure deaths among cats and then dogs. A major pet food manufacturer had recently switched wheat gluten suppliers, paying 20 to 30 percent less to a broker importing from China (natch). Soon, it's revealed that two Chinese suppliers were passing off cheaper, toxic additives as gluten. As Nestle demonstrates, it's the tip of the iceberg; unraveling the links among "food safety, health policy, international trade, and the relationship of corporations to government," Nestle examines continuing food scandals, as well as the Chinese toy scare. Nestle finds most fault with the FDA; "still operating under food and drug laws passed in 1906 and modified in 1938," it's a systematically underfunded organization with an ever-increasing mandate and ever-shrinking powers of oversight. Though informative, this quick, clarifying read might easily make you sick to your stomach.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
I knew the basic story here, but did not know about the total number of pets who died (likely in the thousands), the reasons why melamine was substituted for the wheat gluten (cheap melamine looks like expensive protein when tested using standard industrial tests), nor what happened to the contaminated pet food (it was fed to livestock and made it into the human food chain).
This book is a fast read and is clear, well written, and very interesting. Unfortunately, it is too brief. I wish that Ms. Nestle had taken this opportunity to explain more about the pet food industry: its history, the major players, the processes used to make pet food. The story is fascinating, but it feels more like a New Yorker article than a book.
I would recommend this book to someone who was interested in the pet food recalls, though I think that most readers should start with other books about food production. Specifically, I would recommend Michael Pollan's excellent The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals or Marion Nestle's own What to Eat before reading this book, to get a feel for how food is produced and to understand some of the politics involved.
I think that all animal owners owe it to themselves to read this book just to see how loose the pet food industry was/is. Pretty appalling stuff.
I went to school for international business and found the material regarding the China/USA import/export very interesting and think everyone can take something away from this book.
The take away is that even if you do not have pets or don't care about pets or whatever, that this is just the beginning of food issues as was later seen with melamine tainted baby food, chocolate, etc, allow these latter points are not discussed in this book.