Food Politics by Marion Nestle

Subtitled “How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health”, Nestle’s book is actually on I started back in December when my professor told us to start reading the assigned books before the semester started. I got as far as the introduction and gave up because the book is repetitive.

I agree with Nestle’s basic premise — food companies do not care about the health of their consumers as their job is to sell you a massive amount of food you do not need in order to increase the price of their stock.

“Indeed, the U.S. food supply is so over abundant that it contains enough to feed everyone in the country nearly twice over — even after exports are considered. The overly abundant food supply, combined with a society so affluent that most people can afford to buy more food than they need, sets the stage for competition. The food industry must compete fiercely for every dollar spent on food, and food companies expend extraordinary resources to develop and market products that will sell, regardless of their effect on nutritional status or waistlines. To satisfy stockholders, food companies must convince people to eat more of their products or to eat their products instead of those of competitors. They do so through advertising and public relations, of course, but also by working tirelessly to convince government officials, nutrition professionals, and the mead that their products promote health — or at least do no harm.” (pg. 1)

Critics have claimed her thesis ignores personal responsibility, but I think she does a good job explaining how that’s incredibly difficult. Many people don’t have the right tools or information to make good decisions (let alone the money), and some our tools have been manipulated to suit the goals of the food companies.

Nestle wants to make sure the reader has all the information possible and, in doing so, provides a bit too much information. There are moments when I got bogged down in the information as well as moments when the same information was being repeated over and over again. A dense and somewhat dry read.

That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything. She continues her thesis to discuss how the US government is complicit in the overfeeding of America (lobbying, school food programs, agricultural policy) and, as Schlosser states in his book, school districts are too. Her discussion of the food pyramid was fascinating, and I kept expecting her to address the most recent changes to the pyramid, which occurred in 2005.

She spends a large amount of time discussing its formation in 1992 but does not address the most recent changes until her afterward at the end of the book. Of course, this addition was only available because I read the second edition of Nestle’s book (entitled the “Revised and Expanded Edition”), and it did not receive the attention these changes deserved.

Books Mentioned:

  • Nestle, Marion. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007. Originally published 2002. Print. 486 pgs. ISBN: 9780520254039. Source: Purchased.
  • Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Originally published 2001. Print. 383 pgs. ISBN: 9780060838584. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © University of California Press. Retrieved: April 4, 2011.
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