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

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  2,281 ratings  ·  169 reviews
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 downsi...more
Paperback, 472 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by University of California Press (first published 2002)
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There is really only one thing driving the food industry – the hunger for more profit. This is such an obvious fact that it hardly needs to be restated, however, it is best to keep obvious facts at front of your mind. This particular fact tells us a lot about what is wrong with food today.

As hard as it is to believe food is incredibly simple. We need food to give us energy and to provide us with nutrients. So, if we were to be rational in our eating we would eat food that is balanced with our en...more
Food is indeed political. At least this is a message that I’m being hit with a lot recently. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on TV, a show that takes on America’s bad eating habits and tries to change them, also documents an incredible amount of resistance to this change. “We don’t wanna sit around and eat lettuce all day!” says the local radio show host in Huntington, West Virginia (a city which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is the unhealthiest city in America). It seems that pe...more
Boy... if you have any conspiracy-theorist-leaning tendencies at all, this book will really get you going! I think most of us are aware of ties between food corporations and our government's food regulations and safety standards to some degree, but this book will show you just how deeply ingrained it all is. It really is kind of disturbing that the FDA and the USDA have responsibilities both to the health and safety of U.S. consumers, AND to the agricultural industry. Those are definitely a conf...more
This book was a difficult read. The information about the history of each change to the food pyramid (something none of us should use as a dietary guide anyway) was particularly boring and tedious to get through. Much of the book was hard going to read and not written in an engaging or interesting way. It is dull, dull, dull. It has none of the intelligent writing style and ease of reading of so many other books I have read on this topic. The content of the book was also very problematic.

Yes, th...more
Food Politics as a fairly deep study of the politics of the food industry in the Unite States. The book can best be catagorized as text book caliber in both look and feel. Despite the in depth research, the author, Marion Nestle (no relation to the food corporation), does her best to make the information accesabile and understandable to both the professional and the casual reader alike.
To be fair, you shouldn't read this book casually. I am not a food professional but I have read on the topic ex...more
I actually didn't finish this book, which for me is a very rare thing. I got about 3/4 of the way through but then had to stop and return the book to the school library, where it was about 3 months overdue already! One of the reasons I checked the book out was because no one else ever had, though, so I doubt the book was missed. I thought the beginning was very good and everything was explained in terms simple enough to understand, but by the end my interest was dragging. Also, I had those AP En...more
I wasn't expecting to learn much from this book, having already poured through books like Fast Food Nation, The Omnivore's Dilemma, School Lunch Politics The Surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program, Organic, Inc. Natural Foods and How They Grew and Toxic Sludge is Good For You Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, but I feel that this book has a lot to offer above and beyond what other books discuss about food politics.

Although at times the book can get a bit hard t...more
Feb 11, 2009 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: People concerned with health & nutrition and who are struggling to get and/or remain healthy.
This information in this book is priceless. It is shocking how the food industry functions, and our society seriously needs to start thinking for themselves, instead of buying into all the propoganda the media is throwing our way, if we ever want to be healthier and prevent more obesity and chronic disease. HOWEVER...this book definitely reads like a text book. It is not an "easy" read. It is slow going for me, but I value everything I've read. I highly recommend Michael Pollan's "In Defense of...more
Ginny Messina
Published by the University of California press, this reads a lot more like a textbook than popular literature and it can be a little bit of a chore to plod through. But for anyone who wants to understand the politics behind nutrition advice, it is absolutely the best book to read. Nestle, who is well-known among health professionals for her experience and perspectives on the politics of food and nutrition, does an amazing job of covering the history of dietary guidance in the United States. She...more
This book is definitely worth the read for an understanding of how FDA recommendations and warnings (or lack thereof) came to be. Interesting, there's no mention of the often-weak science that led to the preferred recommendations, but that's a different topic addressed by other books. Nestle takes it as a given, but the political aspect is still worth challenging, even if she fails to challenge other things.

I love that she cited the history of the Nestle company (unrelated to the author) marketi...more
I have to be honest . . . it took me ages to finish this book. It was a tough read, but I am so glad I stuck with it because it was so illuminating. I have been so hoodwinked by the food industry and I am astonished by how much goes on that we all do not know about. I feel so much better informed after having read this tome. Kudos to Dr. Nestle for her brave work. Truth!
This is an excellent expose of the food industry's subtle and overt influences over US food policies. The main theme of this book is how food choices are not only personal, but also political. Freedom of food choice is heavily directed by the food industry's efforts in education, lobbying, marketing, and regulation (or lack thereof). What an eye-opener to see it all laid out clearly and with plenty of evidence to support Nestle's arguments. While depressing in many ways, the book's Afterword to...more
This book sheds light on the food industry and how it uses any means necessary to get their products on shelves to make a profit. While I don't mind healthy competition in the food industry, I do mind them marketing and promoting foods that are inherently unhealthy yet claiming they aren't, trying to sell them to children and thereby leading them down a path to bad health and obesity, and the overall ridiculousness of suing those who speak out against food industry claims of the foods not being...more
I hold Marion Nestle is high regard, and Food Politics is my favorite of her books. Rereading it this week, I am reminded why: she is smart as can be, writes clean, tight prose, supports her arguments thoroughly, and never overstates her case. As science writers goes, she is virtually peerless.

And her case is an important one: Food Politics examines the enormous power of the food corporations to influence our govt regulatory agencies, nutrition advice, and our eating decisions.

Health claims on...more
This author discusses how food companies need to continually find new markets for their products and as a result, they have to convince people to eat more regardless of the nutritional value of their products. As a result of this over-consumption, Americans are becoming more and more obese. In this book, Nestle also talks about how the food industry has influenced the USDA recommended Food Guide Pyramid. She says that people are only getting their nutritional advice from the food industry. Altho...more
One of the few "food books" written by someone who has credentials in the area of food and nutrition. This particular distinction made the book much more nuanced, which I appreciated. It avoided the increasingly popular and simplistic view of "the food industry is evil by choice".

Marion Nestle does a great job of explaining how the food industry's negative influence on our diet is caused by the tremendous pressures it has from the financial community to deliver increasing returns every quarter....more
It's really scary to realize that the government agencies that are supposed to protect us from contaminated food and dangerous food additives/supplements really have no power. While Food Politics is a little technical, it has plenty of charts, examples, and descriptions of historical battles over the regulation of food. It was amazing to see how food companies use their muscle to get away with so much. It's worth a browse, at least. I think food regulation (especially with last summer's Spinach...more
I can honestly say that this book changed my life, even though I didn't finish it.

Flash back to late April 2008. Shane and I are in the car en route home from Harrisonburg, where we've been visiting friends. It's a gorgeous spring day in Virginia, and I decide to pass the time driving home reading about the food industry. I make it about five pages in, then slam the book shut and tell Shane that the food industry pisses me off.

Those five pages were the first significant step in the direction of...more
The idea that profit-maximizing behavior by food companies might harm your health and your waistline is a more mainstream idea now than it was back in 2002 when Food Politics was first published. Skyrocketing obesity rates seem to have focused a lot of peoples' attention, and while there's no real consensus on what (if anything) we should do about it, corporate behavior is definitely on the radar screen. In one level it should be obvious that corporations exist to maximize profits and there's no...more
At times you might be forgiven for thinking that surely food can be left free of politics, when so much else in the world is tied up with political string. Sorry, but politics plays a big place here too!

Whether it is public policy and politics dictating what we should eat and drink on health grounds, or should that be "health" grounds, geopolitics with us being encouraged to favour produce from country X instead of country Y for various reasons or just plain business politics, with companies lob...more
Beth Lamborne
Super interesting read. Also a bit long and very detailed regarding historical events. This book was written by a former member of the FDA and as such is very empathetic to them. Most things I learned, I had some sort of sense for prior to discovering exactly how it worked. For example, the first section of the book is devoted to creating the food pyramid, how the government (due to agricultural interests) can never explicitly tell the public to eat less of anything. If they do proclaim "eat les...more
Really enjoyed this book, but it had to go back to the library before I could finish it. Some of it is very dense, with a lot of jargon and acronyms and changing government agencies. My two big take-aways so far are: 1) the incredible amount of funding nutrition and dietetic programs get from food companies and agencies. I knew doctor's offices and hospitals get money (and free pens) from pharmaceutical companies, but didn't think (naively) that it happened to nutritionists, dietitians and their...more
Jul 08, 2007 Gwen rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone interested in agriculture or the food industry
UPDATE: I finished the book. It's ok, but a bit dense for a casual reader, I think. If you're an academic really interested in how food companies affect public policy it's great, but if you're just reading it for fun, all the minute details of policy changes get a little boring. I skimmed a lot of the chapters and just read the most interesting parts. I found the chapters on marketing in schools to be the most interesting.

I'm only two chapters in but it's fascinating. Some of the first two chapt...more
Jan 02, 2008 Hilary added it
Shelves: reference
I didn't actually finish this -- just had to return it to the library at last. It's pretty slow and repetitive, at least in the first half. I learned there pretty much what I already knew:

1. The gov't's advice to citizens about how to eat healthily is heavily influenced by food industry lobbying. Also, the food industry influences laws about food and nutrition. Duh. But she does give good examples in the book and shows it to be a serious problem considering North Americans serious dietary issues...more
Aug 21, 2011 Kathy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kathy by: Borrowed from Ben at the farmer's market
Ben, who works at the Farmer's Market at HeadHouse Square, lent this book to me, following a discussion we had on books about food politics.

This book approached food politics from the perspective of food advertising and governmental influence. I knew fairly little about these arenas, and Nestle's writing, in addition to her personal experiences with oversight committees, enlightened me on the myriad ways in which the food industry has influenced dietary advice in nuanced ways.

Now, I can't watch...more
I found this book fascinating, and depressing. While I already had little faith in our food policy and its governing bodies before reading the book, I lost all faith after finishing it. Nestle does an excellent job of making the information digestible for any reader and points to key cases to highlight her opinions. I think anyone could gain something from this book.
"A courageous and masterful exposé." - Julia Child
So says the back cover, and I can't disagree.
But I'm not going to go around recommending this to people. It's dry as a bone, feels like a textbook, and would be very difficult for anyone not already interested in these issues to get through (Michael Pollan she's not). On the other hand, if you *are* already interested in this stuff, much of it feels obvious, and like Nestle is beating a dead horse, repeating herself, or knocking down straw men....more
So far I've read the preface, second preface, intro, conclusion, afterward, and appendix.... It reads like a textbook, and while the information is interesting, I'm concerned about my ability to actually read the chapters.

That being said, the into in this book will open your eyes to the reasons that food culture is what it is in America. Read this book if you've ever been confused by the FDA's personalized pyramid recommendations and can't see why every food on the supermarket shelf is labeled "...more
May 26, 2007 Luisavides rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: People interested in politics and nutrition
This book inspite of its extensive technical explanations offers a very interesting insight on:
a) lobbying and politics;
b) the nutrion agenda of corporations;
c) consumer deception.

You may be critical of the fact presentation and conclusions drawn from this book but nevertheless it explains how decisions are made and how important lobbying in Washington DC is in order to push a financial agenda.

It brings light into two very important things: Why are people obese (because they eat more then they s...more
This book is simultaneously fascinating, disturbing, enlightening and groan-inducing - shining a bright light on what really influences nutrition guidelines, FDA regulations, advertising and more. It is almost 15 years old, so at this point it's more of a history than expose.

I would recommend it to someone who is interested in the development of national nutritional policy or to anyone with a professional interest in the food industry. It is fairly technical, so it might not appeal to the lay p...more
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