Food Politics by Marion Nestle

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (California Studies in Food and Culture #3) by Marion Nestle

We all witness, in advertising and on supermarket shelves, the fierce competition for our food dollars. In this engrossing expose, 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 very 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.

Editorial Reviews From the Inside Flap

“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.

An alarming read for anyone in the healthcare field. Nestles major premise is that eating less would improve health and this is a challenge because this is in direct opposition to the food industries goal of making a profit. Her message is that involvement of the regulatory agencies should be more independent of the food industry. As so many of our chronic illnesses are cause by obesity or influenced by it – she makes a case for why we should all be concerned where we are heading.

Particularly chilling are the details about marketing to children. In addition, the marketing tactics were a slight surprise to me as I am a new reader in this area of health policy. Nestle dissects the subtle nuances of the dietary recommendations and explains how the food industry shapes those recommendations. Of course these tactics arent illegal but when the food industry is involved with shaping the recommendations – the ethical issues become clear. Nestle suggest we should be cautious of research because the food industry influences which research gets published and even reframes the findings to be favorable to products.

A scholarly read that is approachable as well. I liked the liked that the book because it weaves an interesting narrative in with copious references.

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Food Politics by Marion Nestle
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