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

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,317 Ratings  ·  201 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 13, 2010 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-theory, food
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
Apr 05, 2012 Jodi rated it it was ok
Shelves: health-books
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
Apr 08, 2010 David rated it really liked it
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
Apr 02, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
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
Apr 05, 2011 Irene rated it liked it
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
Anne Green
Oct 05, 2014 Anne Green rated it it was ok
Described as an "engrossing expose" of the food industry in the US,the book is an account of the unscrupulous practices pursued by those with commercial interests in marketing food, interests which it is claimed outweigh any real sense of responsibility for the health and well-being of consumers. Based on the premise that the food industry is motivated by selling more more more, regardless of whether it's nutritious or beneficial, the book contains many revelations about what's been described as ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Frank rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 11, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
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
May 12, 2008 Ginny Messina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food
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
Jul 28, 2012 Marissa rated it really liked it
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
Jun 09, 2015 Ashley rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
Book club pick for June 2015
Patrick Pilz
Nov 29, 2015 Patrick Pilz rated it liked it
The business of America is Business. This books takes on the food industry and describes how its special interest groups influence policy, law making and advertising. I gave the book just three stars, because it is an attack on one particular segment of North American Business, while any other especially Healthcare, Defense, Financial Services or the Construction use the same special interest practices to corrupt law making to their own benefits at the costs of the public. I think that the Food ...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!
Rachel E. Gross
Jun 26, 2016 Rachel E. Gross rated it really liked it
Today's generation of Michael Pollan acolytes may not know it, but this book is essentially their Old Testament. Marion Nestle, a renowned public health professor and former nutrition policy adviser, serves as both a proto-Pollan and a sort of anti-Paula Deen—a science-minded matriarch with the nation’s health and pocketbooks in mind. She was the first to peel back the curtain on the USDA to show us how national nutritional policies—sold to us as objective and based in science—are actually contr ...more
Jul 06, 2015 Liz rated it liked it
3 stars only because it was so dense and textbook like, i found myself losing interest and skimming at times. That being said, it was very informative and just downright scary how money really does win every single time. From hearing how food/interest group lobbyists could influence a certain food group's place on the food pyramid(down to very specific language used), to how they market and strategically advertise their product, and how they make health claims and even fortify foods to sell them ...more
Jul 14, 2014 MJ rated it really liked it
Insightful look at the nitty gritty of regulatory politics in general. Food is Nestle's subject matter of choice, but a similar book could be written on a number of other topics (environmental law, communications law, prescription drug law, etc.). Her insider's view of the regulatory process and the interplay between government and industry is exemplary, and whether you're a newcomer to regulation or a seasoned veteran, you'll find this a worthwhile read.

Looking at the regulatory process by way
Feb 23, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 13, 2014 Dirly rated it really liked it
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
Mar 10, 2016 Nicole rated it it was ok
Shelves: food
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the information is pretty interesting and it seems pretty well researched. The author delves into detail about how the government and politics have affected our foods and the perceptions of health. It also discusses how government regulations, or lack of them, can affect how different types of foods are produced and how they are perceived by consumers. On the other hand, this book is really, really boring to read. It feels at least twice as lon ...more
Marta Zaraska
Oct 04, 2015 Marta Zaraska rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in food, diet, nutrition, meat-eating, food industry, politics
A very important book. It truly opened my eyes to how food industry in the US works. Nestle is straight to the point, unafraid to step on many toes, and has plenty of evidence to support her claims - and a lot of it comes from her own experience working with the food industry and the government. An example: On the first day of her job working on the editorial production of the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health, back in the 1980s, Nestle was given clear rules. She recalls: “No matt ...more
Yana Manyukhina
Sep 19, 2014 Yana Manyukhina rated it really liked it
Food Politics, written by a nutrition expert Marion Nestle, provides detailed history of the evolution of US nutrition policy and food industry’s active part in shaping government dietary guidelines and hence, public health. Nestle is explicitly critical of the industry’s unethical marketing and advertising techniques and profit-driven product selling strategies aimed at securing every food dollar spent by American population. She discusses the reasons behind current uncertainty and confusion ab ...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
Feb 26, 2012 Robin rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 09, 2013 Jade rated it really liked it
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.
May 07, 2007 Sue rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 09, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, politics
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
Apr 29, 2013 Darren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Beth Lamborne
Oct 25, 2012 Beth Lamborne rated it really liked it
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
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“This book exposes the ways in which food companies use political processes—entirely conventional and nearly always legal—to obtain government and professional support for the sale of their products. Its twofold purpose is to illuminate the extent to which the food industry determines what people eat and to generate much wider discussion of the food industry’s marketing methods and use of the political system.” 0 likes
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