Matt HealeyWednesday,27 March 2013

The Snap

I just finished Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the food giants hooked us. I gave it four stars. I had heard about this book from an article in The New York Times’ magazine section.

The Download

This was a very good book. It provided in a factual way the impact of salt, sugar and fat and how the food industry manipulates the quantities to ensure that we consume as much of the product as we can. They talk about the focus on sales above everything else. They discuss some of the chemistry, but are not overly technical. The authors use stories from the development of several processed foods to illustrate how the food industry goes through the process of ensuring that their products are consumed in the greatest volumes possible. From identifying “heavy users” (the soda industry’s term for people who over-consume a specific product like soda), to inventing characters (Betty Crocker was a food industry creation) to neutralize critics, to fighting legislation that is intended to regulate or even label food (the food industry’s response to a congressional investigation into how salt contributes to the rising number of high blood pressure cases was to hire scientists to testify about the dangers of consuming too little salt).

The other reason I liked this book was its clear evidence of something that I have maintained for a long time now. You do not have freedom of choice when it comes to food. You may feel like you do because the grocery store aisles are full of choices. There are so many products that you can select, in order to suit any taste, so how can you not have choice? Dig a little deeper, and what you discover is that if you want to reduce your consumption of salt, sugar and fat — all three — you face a virtually impossible task. You essentially have to cook everything from the base ingredients and can not buy anything canned, boxed, or processed in any way. Once you cross the line into any of the processed foods, then the salt, sugar and fat go through the roof. The problem with this is that in current society, the 99% do not have the time or the money to do this. So if you are in the 1%, then you can hire a private chef to prepare all of your meals and control what goes into the food. Everyone else is pretty much screwed. So next time someone says they oppose something like the NYC large soda ban because they do not want the government controlling what they eat, the proper response is “is the government making that choice worse than the CEO of Kraft Foods, who has an incentive to drive you to overeat so he can make his quarter?”

Hat Tips

Salt, Sugar, Fat, Image Credit: Flickr

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