We all witness, in advertising and on supermarket shelves, the fierce competition for our food dollars. In this engrossing exposé, Marion Nestle goes behind the scenes to reveal how the competition really works and how it affects our health. The abundance of food in the United States – enough calories to meet the needs of every man, woman, and child twice over – has a downside. Our over-efficient food industry must do everything possible to persuade people to eat more – more food, more often, and in larger portions – no matter what it does to waistlines or well-being.
Like manufacturing cigarettes or building weapons, making food is big business. Food companies in 2000 generated nearly $900 billion in sales. They have stakeholders to please, shareholders to satisfy, and government regulations to deal with. It is nevertheless shocking to learn precisely how food companies lobby officials, co-opt experts, and expand sales by marketing to children, members of minority groups, and people in developing countries. We learn that the food industry plays politics as well as or better than other industries, not least because so much of its activity takes place outside the public view.
Editor of the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health, Nestle is uniquely qualified to lead us through the maze of food industry interests and influences. She vividly illustrates food politics in action: watered-down government dietary advice, schools pushing soft drinks, diet supplements promoted as if they were First Amendment rights. When it comes to the mass production and consumption of food, strategic decisions are driven by economics – not science, not common sense, and certainly not health. No wonder most of us are thoroughly confused about what to eat to stay healthy.
An accessible and balanced account, Food Politics will forever change the way we respond to food industry marketing practices. By explaining how much the food industry influences government nutrition policies and how cleverly it links its interests to those of nutrition experts, this path-breaking book helps us understand more clearly than ever before what we eat and why.
"Nestle's meticulous, nuanced account traces the connections between North America's immense agricultural surpluses, industrial foods like infant formula and Hamburger Helper, the supersizing of fast foods, and declines in public health."
– Jan Zita Grover, Women's Review Of Books
"Nestle is simply one of the nation's smartest and most influential authorities on nutrition and food policy."
– Carol Ness, Sun-Sentinel
"Put her on the map by documenting precisely how the food industry influences what we eat and the government food policy."
– Carol Ness, Beaumont Enterprise
"A solid, important treatise [...] If, after Marxism's demise, you need evidence of the pervasive complicity of government in the amassing of wealth by a few to the detriment of the many, look no further."
– Melvin Konner, The American Prospect
"Food Politics is a well-researched, thoughtful, and angry book. Nestle is most eloquent in her analyses of the relationship between government and industry. An invaluable addition to the literature."
– Rima D. Apple, Technology And Culture
"The ironically named Nestle does for the entire food industry what Eric Schlosser did for fast food in Fast Food Nation – a scathing and sometimes shocking expose of an industry we have taken for granted. This award-winning book looks at how the sheer volume of food available in North America has created questionable marketing practices, to say the least."
– Alison Gzowski, Toronto Globe & Mail
"In this fascinating book we learn how powerful, intrusive, influential, and invasive big industry is and how alert we must constantly be to prevent it from influencing not only our own personal nutritional choices, but those of our government agencies. Marion Nestle has presented us with a courageous and masterful exposé."
– Julia Child
"This remarkable book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand how it has come to be that the richest nation in the world is eating itself to death [...] . Straight reporting about the shaping of food policy, as this volume makes clear, is certain to offend some very powerful players."
– Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life
"Food politics underlie all politics in the United States. There is no industry more important to Americans, more fundamentally linked to our well-being and the future well-being of our children. Nestle reveals how corporate control of the nation's food system limits our choices and threatens our health. If you eat, you should read this book."
– Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation
"'Blockbuster' is one of the best ways that I could describe this book [...] . A major contribution to understanding the interaction of politics and science, especially the science of nutrition, it is of extreme value to virtually all policy makers and to everyone concerned with the American diet."
– Sheldon Margen, editor of the Berkeley Wellness Letter
"A devastating analysis of how the naked self-interest of America's largest industry influences and compromises nutrition policy and government regulation of food safety [...] A clear translation of often obscure studies and cases, the writing is accessible and lively."
– Warren Belasco, author of Appetite for Change
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Marion Nestle is Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University. Author of Nutrition in Clinical Practice (1985), she has served as a nutrition policy advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services and as a member of nutrition and science advisory committees to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. She is the author of Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism (California, 2003), Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine (California, 2010), and Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (California, 2012), among other books.