Food Politics

by Marion Nestle

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Marion Nestle, professor of Sociology, Nutrition, Food Science, and Public Health, has devoted Food Politics to the the presentation of how the food industry affects public health. The book is divided into fifteen chapters and is informed by the author's extensive research into food science, her background in molecular biology, and her years working as an editor on the Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health. Clearly, Nestle is uniquely qualified to discuss the politics of food.

Her thesis is that various food industries effect public health. In the first part, Nestle explains how desperately food industries (such as the meat, dairy, and food processing industries) want the public to eat more. She insightfully explains that the per capita food production has increased from 3,200 calories per day in 1970 to 3,900 calories per day by the 1990s. Because of this surplus, these businesses are pressured to invent new (often processed) foods in order to attract the public and keep their profits high. Here, too, Nestle explains the various political stages involved in the production of the Food Guide Pyramid. The various changes to food pyramid is the ultimate testament to the power of lobbyists in government's advising of the public concerning health and nutrition.

In the second part, Nestle highlights how various food industries make campaign donations to government officials on agencies responsible for food regulations. These aggressive and profit-driven food companies influence both government officials as well as academics (the latter by means of contributing to professional journals).

In the third part, Nestle identifies the means by which these food industries advertise. Particularly, she notes, food companies advertise to children. They especially promote junk food, which (unsurprisingly) has led to childhood obesity.

In the fourth part, Nestle addresses the dietary supplement industry specifically. She claims that supplement companies deliberately obscure the contents (and sometimes side effects) of their products in order to trick the public into believing in these products' efficacy. As an example of this, Nestle adduces the several deaths and injuries caused by excessive use of the poorly regulated herbal stimulant, ephedra.

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