Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]


Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss


Michael Moss’ Salt Sugar Fat is a complex, impressive exposé of the ways the processed food industry manipulates the public and government. It is sharp, comprehensive, entertaining, and incredibly thorough.

To make his case about the bewitching power of processed food, Moss breaks the book down into the three titular categories. Each of the three sections contains some shocking new information about the ingredient in question, how we experience it, and how it is used in processed food to produce the coveted “mouthfeel” (industry term) and flavour that will keep “heavy users” (industry term) coming back for more.

Moss is meticulous in backing up his claims with studies and knowledgeable named sources. It’s surprising how many of the industry insiders are willing to be named, and express reservations on the record about their participation in a system that’s led to poor public health and an obesity epidemic.

What makes this book truly remarkable is that Moss has no special bone to pick with processed food, in and of itself. He makes it plain on several occasions that he loves many of the convenient food options on offer, and he sympathises with food industry scientists when they mourn the metallic, chemical taste of their salt-reduced food offerings. Moss’s goal isn’t to take down the industry or ban all these items.

Rather, this book issues a plea for processed food giants to be more transparent about what their foods actually contain and don’t contain. No more inflated health claims for cereals fortified with more sugar than vitamins. No more bullying the USDA into changing their food guides. No more exploiting the addictive properties of their products without regard for the health of their heavy users. Salt Sugar Fat is a call to attention for all foodies, and essential reading for fans of Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on May 2, 2013. Written by Shauna Thomas, Librarian. 

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