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Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (California Studies in Food and Culture) Paperback – June 15, 2010
100 Books for a Lifetime of Eating & Drinking
If you want to make an authentic tagine, bake mouth-watering cakes, or vicariously experience the life of a chef, you’ll find the book for it on this list.
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From The New England Journal of Medicine
"Food safety is political." So claims the title of the introduction to Marion Nestle's book Safe Food, and this assertion is solidly confirmed in the pages that follow. In her instructive monograph, Nestle exposes the political workings of the system that supposedly guarantees the safety of our food. The operation of this system is unfamiliar to many, but Nestle's well-researched and carefully documented arguments convince me that the topic should be of concern to anyone who eats. Most Americans believe that the United States has the safest food supply in the world. But is this belief justified? Does the public know what the government does and does not do regarding food inspection? How many people believe that their ground sirloin is tested for Escherichia coli O157:H7, their chicken for campylobacter, and their cold cuts for listeria? How many know whether their taco shells are made from transgenic corn? Do people assume that the package label reflects this information? And most important, do they know who decides what is done to ensure food safety and why? The answers to these questions are surprisingly predictable when one considers the workings of other regulatory systems in our society. In Safe Food, we learn of food producers that place the interests of stockholders above those of the public, byzantine government agencies that work at cross-purposes, the flow of personnel between government and industry that confuses the goals of the watchdog with those of the watched, and a spectrum of citizens' groups that engage in activities ranging from responsible public advocacy to street theatrics and "biovandalism." In essence, all the troubling problems of the military-industrial complex seem also to be manifested in our food-production system. Safe Food addresses all these elements in two major sections and a conclusion that roughly correspond with the three Bs in the book's subtitle. Part one, "Resisting Food Safety," includes an account of the government agencies concerned with food safety -- there are no fewer than 12 -- and their sometimes inexplicable regulatory responsibilities. For example, the reader learns that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the production of hot dogs in pastry dough, whereas the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates hot dogs in rolls. Beef broth and dehydrated chicken soup are regulated by the USDA, but chicken broth and dehydrated beef soup are regulated by the FDA. After this look at the regulatory side of the process, Nestle turns to a discussion of food producers' historical resistance to regulation. Since 1906, one role of USDA meat inspectors has been to exclude diseased animals from the food supply. The suggestion to refocus oversight on specific pathogens by instituting Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems at critical points in food production has been repeatedly deferred by political and legal actions since the early 1980s. For example, from 1971 until the mid-1990s, the meat industry argued successfully that foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 are inherent components of raw meat and therefore not "adulterants" that are subject to regulation. Part two of the book recounts the efforts of biotechnology firms to introduce genetically modified foods onto the farm and into the food supply. This introduction was accomplished with the complicity of government agencies but largely without the knowledge or consent of the public. Industry aggressively promotes genetically engineered foods as the solution to world hunger. But what evidence supports this claim? And what of the hidden dangers of so-called Frankenfoods to our health and economy that some outspoken critics predict? Nestle stresses two major themes here: the exploitation of science-based justifications for points of view on either side of the question, and the notion that public opinion in these matters is often based on values, a sense of dread, and a healthy distrust of institutions, rather than on scientific principles. The conclusion, which deals with bioterrorism, may be the weakest part of the book. Here the author uses examples of novel foodborne diseases, such as mad cow disease, to show how authorities might react to a deliberate contamination of the food supply. A few minor inaccuracies in the argument are more annoying than substantive, but the premise itself is a bit of a stretch. The last major revolution in food safety in this country followed the publication of Upton Sinclair's 1906 fictional expose, The Jungle. Remarkably, our system for securing the food supply has grown in size and complexity but only marginally in scope since then. Safe Food will probably not generate the public uproar that Sinclair's book did, but it expresses in scholarly terms the compelling reasons for undertaking another reorganization of the system. An advocate holding a passionate and transparent point of view, Nestle concludes her book with a list of specific suggestions for the food industry, the federal government, and the public. As citizens, consumers, and patient advocates, physicians would be wise to be informed about these issues and their possible solutions. N. Cary Engleberg, M.D.
Copyright © 2003 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Nestle clearly explains the intersection between policy, politics, and the plate, delivering practical advice on every corner of the grocery store."--"Christian Science Monitor"
Top Customer Reviews
The book is not perfect; some of the sections describing various scientific procedures may have benefited from the inclusion of explanatory diagrams, rather than somewhat belabored text descriptions. But overall, "Safe Food" is an important and timely book, and one well worth reading by anyone concerned about the quality of the food we eat.
The kindle version of this book is not perfect. Some diagrams and charts were cut off or difficult to follow. Though maybe now slightly out of date, overall, "Safe Food" is an important book, and one well worth reading by anyone concerned about the quality of the food we eat.
One could have doubted what was written but we have just had the blatent disregard for food safety by 'CADBURY' the famous chocolate people claiming that only minute traces of bacteria may be present.
You either have bacteria or no bacteria there is no halfway house, this book will open everyone's eyes.
And Greg Palast fans will be well aware of the corporate malfeasance milieu in the US and as it turns out two of the most egregious and foul government offenders are the FDA and the USDA, each charged with aspects of food safety. Based on past performance there is NO reason to believe any statement, proclamation or promise from these agencies to be anything other than the position statements of industry lobbyists. Big Money will always assure that Big Food and Big Pharma will have their wallets open when any officeholder in Washington knocks on their door. This level of overinfluence, which in most civilized nations would be considered criminal, leaves the lives of millions of US eaters are in the balance and ready for corporate abuse. An Economist review says that her book argues "that America's agribusiness lobby has stifled the government's regulatory power,... and hampered the government's ability to offer sound, scientific nutritional advice."
The industry goal is clearly to encourage eaters to consume more and more, food that is deadlier and deadlier, and regulated less and less. The food wars are much more about how to shave a few pennies off of the price of food no matter what the cost in disease and death. One author called the industry-inspired policy machinations Death by Food Pyramid.
Marion Nestle's book "What to Eat" is also a classic and is frequently cited by Michael Pollan in his writing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good book, enlightening for anyone in the food industry or who just wants to know more about food safety.Published 22 months ago by Ryan Mills
I HAVE READ ALL DR. NESTLE'S WORKS AND SHE BASICALLY STARTED ME ON THE HEALTHY NUTRITIONAL PATH. SHE IS MY GODDESS.Published on August 30, 2014 by PETER RAPP
You will never eat pre-packaged hamburger purchased from chain grocery stores again. Nestle's book is a must-read for people who are interested in food policy.Published on January 18, 2014 by Clarice K.
I experienced this book as a strong, smart overview on issues of food safety and politics. Marion Nestle, originally trained as a microbiologist, is a highly respected scholar,... Read morePublished on August 14, 2013 by GskFn
Nestle has made a very well documented case involving safety of food regarding pathogens, GMO, and bioterrorism. Read morePublished on February 11, 2012 by JL4321