FOOD POLITICS by Marion Nestle

by JF

Marion Nestle is an academic nutrition consultant. She spent many years as an advistor on nutrition committees seeking to work with the federal government to develop “official” federal standards of nutrition and all of the legalese mumbo-jumbo on food labels that that entails. Nestle is quite the logistician, and the vital statistics and the specific recent historical events that Nestle provides is impeccable and thorough; unfortunately, Nestle also writes like a logistician, and readers of her book will likely and quickly get bogged down in the reams and reams of specifics and statistics she piles and compiles upon point after point, event after event. This book was apparently very influential, as it was written in 2002 and, since that time, many other books and documentary films on the same or similar food industry-related topics have been made–books from more accessible authors like Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, for example, and documentary films such as Food, Inc.

Perhaps the most memorable section of this book occurs early on, when Nestle provides an in-depth history on the ridiculous and sundry attempts all throughout the twentieth century of the federal government to establish an accurate “food pyramid” icon with which to sell to the public. The process was hopelessly fraught with bribery and fraud on the part of corrupt corporations, their corrupt lobbyists, and their corrupt politician-lackeys. This long, sordid, and absurd episode sets the pattern for rest of the episodic food industry-related histories which Nestle provides on every subsequent, tediously documented page. In every case, regardless of the federal nutrition program or regulation, regardless of the commercialized food product, human greed and political corruption destroyed any and all efforts to provide an honest federal nutrition guidance program. (This book goes a long way towards explaining the problem of obesity in this country. That it does indeed.)

Nestle suffers from a couple of popularly accepted delusions, unfortunately: 1) She believes in the mainstream “cholesterol myth” (see the work of Dr. Weston Price or the work of Sally Fallon for the real deal here), and, despite all the gads and gobs and endless examples of political and corporate American food industry corruption ad nauseam, she remains naively hopeful that there can still someday be some sort of solution to the problem if only the right people just keep beating their heads against the right wall. (Gee, where have I heard that one before?)

Yeah, right. Good luck with that one.

Avoid the whole damn thing: Grow and raise your own food. If you don’t have the land to do so, then at least buy local. Go to farmer’s markets instead of supermarkets whenever possible.

Rating: Δ Δ Δ