Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

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by Michael Moss
     
 

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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Atlantic • The Huffington Post • Men’s Journal • MSN (U.K.) • Kirkus Reviews • Publishers Weekly

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION AWARD FOR WRITING AND LITERATURE

From a Pulitzer

Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Atlantic • The Huffington Post • Men’s Journal • MSN (U.K.) • Kirkus Reviews • Publishers Weekly

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION AWARD FOR WRITING AND LITERATURE

From a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at The New York Times comes the explosive story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. Michael Moss reveals how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict us and, more important, how we can fight back.
 
In the spring of 1999 the heads of the world’s largest processed food companies—from Coca-Cola to Nabisco—gathered at Pillsbury headquarters in Minneapolis for a secret meeting. On the agenda: the emerging epidemic of obesity, and what to do about it.
 
Increasingly, the salt-, sugar-, and fat-laden foods these companies produced were being linked to obesity, and a concerned Kraft executive took the stage to issue a warning: There would be a day of reckoning unless changes were made. This executive then launched into a damning PowerPoint presentation—114 slides in all—making the case that processed food companies could not afford to sit by, idle, as children grew sick and class-action lawyers lurked. To deny the problem, he said, is to court disaster.
 
When he was done, the most powerful person in the room—the CEO of General Mills—stood up to speak, clearly annoyed. And by the time he sat down, the meeting was over.
 
Since that day, with the industry in pursuit of its win-at-all-costs strategy, the situation has only grown more dire. Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year.
 
In Salt Sugar Fat, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss shows how we got here. Featuring examples from some of the most recognizable (and profitable) companies and brands of the last half century—including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Lunchables, Kellogg, Nestlé, Oreos, Cargill, Capri Sun, and many more—Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous, often eye-opening research.
 
Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by manipulating its chemical structure. He unearths marketing campaigns designed—in a technique adapted from tobacco companies—to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as “fat-free” or “low-salt.” He talks to concerned executives who confess that they could never produce truly healthy alternatives to their products even if serious regulation became a reality. Simply put: The industry itself would cease to exist without salt, sugar, and fat. Just as millions of “heavy users”—as the companies refer to their most ardent customers—are addicted to this seductive trio, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Scott Mowbray
Mr. Moss…deftly lays out the complicated marriage of science and marketing that got us where we are…Importantly, Mr. Moss reports deeply from inside the food companies: researchers, marketers, strategists, C.E.O.'s and many who have left their work, some with regrets about how good they were at leveraging the bliss point. Salt Sugar Fat is not a polemic, nor a raised platform for food purists to fire broadsides at evil empires. This is inside stuff, and the book is all the stronger for it.
The New York Times Book Review - David Kamp
As a feat of reporting and public service, Salt Sugar Fat is a remarkable accomplishment…Moss is on his surest footing when he tethers his narrative to some convenience-food innovator…Moss doesn't villainize these men, portraying them as relatively benign figures who simply heeded the call of the times and delivered what their bosses wanted. But when he gets into their personal relationships with their own creations, the results are more indicting than any authorly polemic would ever be.
The Washington Post - Hannah Wallace
If you had any doubt as to the food industry's complicity in our obesity epidemic, it will evaporate when you read this book. Moss is devoted to showing us how ruthless these companies are at exploiting our built-in cravings for salt, sugar and fat, aggressively marketing junk food not just to children but to the poor.
Publishers Weekly
American cuisine is just a delivery system for an addictive trinity of unhealthy ingredients, according to this eye-popping exposé of the processed food industry. Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporter Moss (Palace Coup) explains the two-faced science of salt, sugar, and fat, which impart tantalizing tastes and luscious mouthfeel that light up the same neural circuits that narcotics do—Coca-Cola, he notes, calls favorite customers “heavy users”—while causing epidemic obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. But he also crafts an absorbing insiders’ view of the food industry, where these ingredients are the main weapons in a brutally competitive war for stomach-share. He takes readers into the laboratories, marketing tests, and boardrooms where the sweet, salty, cheesy “bliss point” of cereals, snacks, sodas, and frozen dinners is obsessively pursued; the scientists and executives he talks to feel torn between health concerns—almost to a person, he observes, they avoid eating the food they sell—and the market-driven imperative to stoke consumer cravings. Moss’s vivid reportage remains alive to the pleasures of junk—“the heated fat swims over the tongue to send signals of joy to the brain”—while shrewdly analyzing the manipulative profiteering behind them. The result is a mouth-watering, gut-wrenching look at the food we hate to love. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“As a feat of reporting and a public service, Salt Sugar Fat is a remarkable accomplishment.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“[Michael] Moss has written a Fast Food Nation for the processed food industry. Burrowing deep inside the big food manufacturers, he discovered how junk food is formulated to make us eat more of it and, he argues persuasively, actually to addict us.”—Michael Pollan
 
“If you had any doubt as to the food industry’s complicity in our obesity epidemic, it will evaporate when you read this book.”The Washington Post
 
“Vital reading for the discerning food consumer.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Propulsively written [and] persuasively argued . . . an exactingly researched, deeply reported work of advocacy journalism.”The Boston Globe
 
“[An] eye-popping exposé . . . Moss’s vivid reportage remains alive to the pleasures of junk—‘the heated fat swims over the tongue to send signals of joy to the brain’—while shrewdly analyzing the manipulative profiteering behind them. The result is a mouth-watering, gut-wrenching look at the food we hate to love.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Revelatory . . . a shocking, galvanizing manifesto against the corporations manipulating nutrition to fatten their bottom line—one of the most important books of the year.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“What happens when one of the country’s great investigative reporters infiltrates the most disastrous cartel of modern times: a processed food industry that’s making a fortune by slowly poisoning an unwitting population? You get this terrific, powerfully written book, jammed with startling disclosures, jaw-dropping confessions and, importantly, the charting of a path to a better, healthier future. This book should be read by anyone who tears a shiny wrapper and opens wide. That’s all of us.”—Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President
 
“In this meticulously researched book, Michael Moss tells the chilling story of how the food giants have seduced everyone in this country. He understands a vital and terrifying truth: that we are not just eating fast food when we succumb to the siren song of sugar, fat, and salt. We are fundamentally changing our lives—and the world around us.”—Alice Waters
 
Salt Sugar Fat is a breathtaking feat of reporting. Michael Moss was able to get executives of the world’s largest food companies to admit that they have only one job—to maximize sales and profits—and to reveal how they deliberately entice customers by stuffing their products with salt, sugar, and fat. This is a truly important book, and anyone reading it will understand why food corporations cannot be trusted to value health over profits and why we all need to recognize and resist food marketing every time we grocery shop or vote.”—Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and What to Eat
Library Journal
Reporter Moss, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times investigation of the dangers of contaminated meat, offers a thorough account of the processed-food industry's extensive efforts to dominate the American diet and increase consumption of its products, despite health concerns. He explains that in the 1940s, convenience foods were a novel idea, but their quick success led to an ongoing race among companies to outsell their competitors. Moss traces the development of some of the most famous products and the companies that developed them, including General Foods, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Nestle. The text states that since its inception, the food industry has spent millions of dollars researching brain chemistry, "bliss points," and marketing techniques. Focusing on sugar, fat, and salt, the three pillars of processed foods, Moss illustrates how these ingredients have been calculated and engineered to create foods that consumers crave. VERDICT Through exhaustive research and insider information, Moss achieves his goal of shining a light on the insidious tactics of the food industry. Readers of food lit and exposés will not want to miss this one.—Melissa Stoeger, Deerfield P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
A revelatory look at America's increasing consumption of unhealthy products and at how the biggest food manufacturers ignore health risks, and employ savvy advertising campaigns, to keep us hooked on the ingredients that ensure big profit. In an era where morbid numbers of people are living with diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, New York Times Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Moss (Palace Coup, 1989) discovers through ardent research--much of it interviews with current and former executives of Kraft, PepsiCo and other massive conglomerates--that there is shockingly little regulation of the processes behind the design and sale of foods purposely laden with dangerous levels of salt, sugar and fat. As the average American works longer hours and spends more time outside of the home, the demand for easy-to-cook and tasty meals has skyrocketed. In response, food giants provide an enormous slate of processed food options, almost all of which require immense amounts of salt, fat and/or sugar to cover the taste of poor-quality ingredients. Pulling no punches, the author points out that the recent trend of "healthy" items is no loss for these food manufacturers, who capitalize on creating new lines of spinoff products labeled "low-salt" or "sugar-free," when in fact those products require a significant increase in one of the other triad of flavors to remain palatable. Many products are laden with these ingredients in ways that would surprise the consumer: A single cookie, for example, might require several servings' worth of undetectable salt to retain its irresistible crunch, while it also contains up to five teaspoons of sugar. Moss breaks down the chemical science behind the molecular appeal of these foods, as well as behind the advertising strategies that are so successful in getting consumers to buy not only the "healthier" versions of popular foods, but the originals, as well. If this trend is to be reversed, he argues, it might take a social revolution of empowered consumers, a goal within reach if accurate information is available and pressure is put on these companies to dramatically alter the contents of its processed foods. A shocking, galvanizing manifesto against the corporations manipulating nutrition to fatten their bottom line--one of the most important books of the year.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812982190
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/18/2014
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
62,852
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Salt Sugar Fat

How the Food Giants Hooked Us
By Michael Moss

Random House

Copyright © 2013 Michael Moss
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781400069804

part one sugar

chapter one

“Exploiting the Biology of the Child”

The first thing to know about sugar is this: Our bodies are hard-wired for sweets.

Forget what we learned in school from that old diagram called the tongue map, the one that says our five main tastes are detected by five distinct parts of the tongue. That the back has a big zone for blasts of bitter, the sides grab the sour and the salty, and the tip of the tongue has that one single spot for sweet. The tongue map is wrong. As researchers would discover in the 1970s, its creators misinterpreted the work of a German graduate student that was published in 1901; his experiments showed only that we might taste a little more sweetness on the tip of the tongue. In truth, the entire mouth goes crazy for sugar, including the upper reaches known as the palate. There are special receptors for sweetness in every one of the mouth’s ten thousand taste buds, and they are all hooked up, one way or another, to the parts of the brain known as the pleasure zones, where we get rewarded for stoking our bodies with energy. But our zeal doesn’t stop there. Scientists are now finding taste receptors that light up for sugar all the way down our esophagus to our stomach and pancreas, and they appear to be intricately tied to our appetites.

The second thing to know about sugar: Food manufacturers are well aware of the tongue map folly, along with a whole lot more about why we crave sweets. They have on staff cadres of scientists who specialize in the senses, and the companies use their knowledge to put sugar to work for them in countless ways. Sugar not only makes the taste of food and drink irresistible. The industry has learned that it can also be used to pull off a string of manufacturing miracles, from donuts that fry up bigger to bread that won’t go stale to cereal that is toasty-brown and fluffy. All of this has made sugar a go-to ingredient in processed foods. On average, we consume 71 pounds of caloric sweeteners each year. That’s 22 teaspoons of sugar, per person, per day. The amount is almost equally split three ways, with the sugar derived from sugar cane, sugar beets, and the group of corn sweeteners that includes high-fructose corn syrup (with a little honey and syrup thrown into the mix).

That we love, and crave, sugar is hardly news. Whole books have been devoted to its romp through history, in which people overcame geography, strife, and overwhelming technical hurdles to feed their insatiable habit. The highlights start with Christopher Columbus, who brought sugar cane along on his second voyage to the New World, where it was planted in Spanish Santo Domingo, was eventually worked into granulated sugar by enslaved Africans, and, starting in 1516, was shipped back to Europe to meet the continent’s surging appetite for the stuff. The next notable development came in 1807 when a British naval blockade of France cut off easy access to sugar cane crops, and entrepreneurs, racing to meet demand, figured out how to extract sugar from beets, which could be grown easily in temperate Europe. Cane and beets remained the two main sources of sugar until the 1970s, when rising prices spurred the invention of high-fructose corn syrup, which had two attributes that were attractive to the soda industry. One, it was cheap, effectively subsidized by the federal price supports for corn; and two, it was liquid, which meant that it could be pumped directly into food and drink. Over the next thirty years, our consumption of sugar-sweetened soda more than doubled to 40 gallons a year per person, and while this has tapered off since then, hitting 32 gallons in 2011, there has been a commensurate surge in other sweet drinks, like teas, sports ades, vitamin waters, and energy drinks. Their yearly consumption has nearly doubled in the past decade to 14 gallons a person.

Far less well known than the history of sugar, however, is the intense research that scientists have conducted into its allure, the biology and psychology of why we find it so irresistible.

For the longest time, the people who spent their careers studying nutrition could only guess at the extent to which people are attracted to sugar. They had a sense, but no proof, that sugar was so powerful it could compel us to eat more than we should and thus do harm to our health. That all changed in the late 1960s, when some lab rats in upstate New York got ahold of Froot Loops, the supersweet cereal made by Kellogg. The rats were fed the cereal by a graduate student named Anthony Sclafani who, at first, was just being nice to the animals in his care. But when Sclafani noticed how fast they gobbled it up, he decided to concoct a test to measure their zeal. Rats hate open spaces; even in cages, they tend to stick to the shadowy corners and sides. So Sclafani put a little of the cereal in the brightly lit, open center of their cages—normally an area to be avoided—to see what would happen. Sure enough, the rats overcame their instinctual fears and ran out in the open to gorge.

Their predilection for sweets became scientifically significant a few years later when Sclafani—who’d become an assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College—was trying to fatten some rats for a study. Their standard Purina Dog Chow wasn’t doing the trick, even when Sclafani added lots of fats to the mix. The rats wouldn’t eat enough to gain significant weight. So Sclafani, remembering the Froot Loops experiment, sent a graduate student out to a supermarket on Flatbush Avenue to buy some cookies and candies and other sugar-laden products. And the rats went bananas, they couldn’t resist. They were particularly fond of sweetened condensed milk and chocolate bars. They ate so much over the course of a few weeks that they grew obese.

“Everyone who owns pet rats knows if you give them a cookie they will like that, but no one experimentally had given them all they want,” Sclafani told me when I met him at his lab in Brooklyn, where he continues to use rodents in studying the psychology and brain mechanisms that underlie the desire for high-fat and high-sugar foods. When he did just that, when he gave his rats all they wanted, he saw their appetite for sugar in a new light. They loved it, and this craving completely overrode the biological brakes that should have been saying: Stop.

The details of Sclafani’s experiment went into a 1976 paper that is revered by researchers as one of the first experimental proofs of food cravings. Since its publication, a whole body of research has been undertaken to link sugar to compulsive overeating. In Florida, researchers have conditioned rats to expect an electrical shock when they eat cheesecake, and still they lunge for it. Scientists at Princeton found that rats taken off a sugary diet will exhibit signs of withdrawal, such as chattering teeth. Still, these studies involve only rodents, which in the world of science are known to have a limited ability to predict human physiology and behavior.

What about people and Froot Loops?

For some answers to this question, and for most of the foundational science on how and why we are so attracted to sugar, the food industry has turned to a place called the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. It is located a few blocks west of the Amtrak station, in a bland five-story brick building easily overlooked in the architectural wasteland of the district known as University City—except for “Eddy,” the giant sculpture that stands guarding the entrance. Eddy is a ten-foot-high fragment of a face, and he perfectly captures the obsessions of those inside: He is all nose and mouth.

Getting buzzed through the center’s front door is like stepping into a clubhouse for PhDs. The scientists here hang out in the corridors to swap notions that lead to wild discoveries, like how cats are unable to taste sweets, or how the cough that results from sipping a high-quality olive oil is caused by an anti-inflammatory agent, which may prove to be yet another reason for nutritionists to love this oil so much. The researchers at Monell bustle to and from conference rooms and equipment-filled labs and peer through one-way mirrors at the children and adults who eat and drink their way through the center’s many ongoing experiments. Over the last forty years, more than three hundred physiologists, chemists, neuroscientists, biologists, and geneticists have cycled through Monell to help decipher the mechanisms of taste and smell along with the complex psychology that underlies our love for food. They are among the world’s foremost authorities on taste. In 2001, they identified the actual protein molecule, T1R3, that sits in the taste bud and detects sugar. More recently they have been tracking the sugar sensors that are spread throughout the digestive system, and they now suspect that these sensors are playing a variety of key roles in our metabolism. They have even solved one of the more enduring mysteries in food cravings: the marijuana-induced state known as “the munchies.” This came about in 2009 when Robert Margolskee, a molecular biologist and associate director of the center, joined other scientists in discovering that the sweet taste receptors on the tongue get aroused by endocannabinoids—substances that are produced in the brain to increase our appetite. They are chemical sisters to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, which may explain why smoking marijuana can trigger hunger pangs. “Our taste cells are turning out to be smarter than we thought, and more involved in regulating our appetites,” Margolskee told me.

The stickiest subject at Monell, however, is not sugar. It’s money. Taxpayers fund about half of the center’s $17.5 million annual budget through federal grants, but much of the rest of its operation comes from the food industry, including the big manufacturers, as well as several tobacco companies. A large golden plaque in the lobby pays homage to PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Nestlé, Philip Morris, among others. It’s an odd arrangement, for sure, one that evokes past efforts by the tobacco industry to buy “research” that put cigarettes in a favorable light. At Monell, the industry funding buys companies a privileged access to the center and its labs. They get exclusive first looks at the center’s research, often as early as three years before the information goes public, and are also able to engage some of Monell’s scientists to conduct special studies for their particular needs. But Monell prides itself on the integrity and independence of its scientists. Some of their work, in fact, is funded with monies from the lawsuits that states brought against the tobacco manufacturers.

“At Monell, scientists choose their research projects based solely on their own curiosity and interests and are deeply committed to the pursuit of fundamental knowledge,” the center said in response to my questions about its financial structure. Indeed, as I would discover, though Monell receives industry funding, some of its scientists sound like consumer activists when they speak about the power their benefactors wield, especially when it comes to children.

This tension between the industry’s excitement about the research at Monell and the center’s own unease about the industry’s practices dates back to some of the center’s earliest research on our taste buds—based on age, sex, and race. Back in the 1970s, researchers at Monell discovered that kids and African Americans were particularly keen on foods that were salty and sweet. They gave solutions of varying sweetness and saltiness to a group of 140 adults and then to a group of 618 children aged nine to fifteen, and the kids were found to like the highest level of sweet and salty—even more than the adults. Twice as many kids as adults chose the sweetest and saltiest solutions. (This was the first scientific proof of what parents, watching their kids lunge for the sugar bowl at the breakfast table, already knew instinctively.) The difference among adults was less striking but still significant: More African Americans chose the sweetest and saltiest solutions.

One of Monell’s sponsors, Frito-Lay, was particularly interested in the salt part of the study, since the company made most of its money on salty chips. Citing Monell’s work in a 1980 internal memo, a Frito-Lay food scientist summed up the finding on kids and added, “Racial Effect: It has been shown that blacks (in particular, black adolescents) displayed the greatest preference for a high concentration of salt.” The Monell scientist who did this groundbreaking study, however, raised another issue that reflected his anxiety about the food industry. Kids didn’t just like sugar more than adults, this scientist, Lawrence Greene, pointed out in a paper published in 1975. Data showed they were actually consuming more of the stuff, and Greene suggested there might be a chicken-and-egg issue at play: Some of this craving for sugar may not be innate in kids but rather is the result of the massive amounts of sugar being added to processed foods. Scientists call this a learned behavior, and Greene was one of the first to suggest that the increasingly sweet American diet could be driving the desire for more sugar, which, he wrote, “may or may not correspond to optimum nutritional practices.”

In other words, the sweeter the industry made its food, the sweeter kids liked their food to be.

I wanted to explore this idea a bit more deeply, so I spent some time with Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist who first came to Monell in 1988. In graduate school, she had studied maternal behavior in animals and realized that no one was examining the influence that food and flavors had on women who were mothers. She joined Monell to answer a set of unknowns about food. Do the flavors of the food you eat transmit to your milk? Do they transmit to amniotic fluid? Do babies develop likes and dislikes for foods even before they are born?

“One of the most fundamental mysteries is why we like the foods that we do,” Mennella said. “The liking of sweet is part of the basic biology of a child. When you think of the taste system, it makes one of the most important decisions of all: whether to accept a food. And, once we do, to warn the digestive system of impending nutrients. The taste system is our gatekeeper and one of the research approaches has been to take a developmental route, to look from the beginning—and what you see is that children are living in different sensory worlds than you and I. As a group, they prefer much higher levels of sweet and salt, rejecting bitter more than we do. I would argue that part of the reason children like high levels of sweet and salt is a reflection of their basic biology.”

Continues...

Excerpted from Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss Copyright © 2013 by Michael Moss. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Advance praise for Salt Sugar Fat
 
“What happens when one of the country’s great investigative reporters infiltrates the most disastrous cartel of modern times: a processed food industry that’s making a fortune by slowly poisoning an unwitting population? You get this terrific, powerfully written book, jammed with startling disclosures, jaw-dropping confessions and, importantly, the charting of a path to a better, healthier future. This book should be read by anyone who tears a shiny wrapper and opens wide. That’s all of us.”—Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President
 
“In this meticulously researched book, Michael Moss tells the chilling story of how the food giants have seduced everyone in this country. He understands a vital and terrifying truth: that we are not just eating fast food when we succumb to the siren song of sugar, fat, and salt. We are fundamentally changing our lives—and the world around us.”—Alice Waters
 
Salt Sugar Fat is a breathtaking feat of reporting. Michael Moss was able to get executives of the world’s largest food companies to admit that they have only one job—to maximize sales and profits—and to reveal how they deliberately entice customers by stuffing their products with salt, sugar, and fat. This is a truly important book, and anyone reading it will understand why food corporations cannot be trusted to value health over profits and why we all need to recognize and resist food marketing every time we grocery shop or vote.”—Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and What to Eat

Meet the Author

Michael Moss was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2010, and was a finalist for the prize in 1999 and 2006. He is also the recipient of a Loeb Award and an Overseas Press Club citation. Before coming to The New York Times, he was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons.

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Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Remember when you did not eat in a car, ate breakfast at home, and desserts were not served every night? These companies are slowly killing each of us. This book gets me mad and I will eat healthier as a result of knowing these food companies do not care about any of us.
DiiMI More than 1 year ago
Michael Moss's Salt Sugar Fat is an enlightening and thought provoking study in the role of big business for helping to create a craving in this country for processed foods that are overly saturated with fats, salts and sugars. Why? To make their products the most popular, creating more demand which in turn creates larger revenues! With their 'brand' established, the public is ripe for the new, improved version, slightly different versions, new products with 'tweeked' flavors. Did you know there is some magical number for sweetness? Hit that number and test 'victims' LOVE the taste! Same for fats and salt! With so many households with both parents working, so many single mothers working, convenience seems to reign supreme over nutrition. Once our taste buds get hold of the 'enhanced' foods, we find an apple just plain boring! Imagine what kids think? Their taste buds are programmed by outside influences-sugary, salty, fatty foods you can eat on the run. The U.S. government looked on for years before starting a very slow campaign towards eating right. Nice. Job. This is a must read for anyone who eats! Tony the Tiger is NOT your friend! This edition was provided by NetGalley and Random House in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While it is true every person has a responsibility to eat "right" and exercise, the point is that the industries are engineering the food in a way that makes it almost impossible to stop once you start. When theystart making multi faceted kosher salt so the flavor will stay in your mouth longer, there is something offensivly wrong with that. It isnt honest to deceive consumers like that. Ultimatly it has to fall on the individual, this book has enlightened me and i will be much more cautious in putting my faith in these companies who have been a childhood staple. This book is a definate must read. This book was also featured on Dr Oz and his examples were really quite amazing.
mybabyboylucas More than 1 year ago
I an RN who cares for people with illnesses directly related to what the have eaten over the past 40 or 50 years.  Heart attacks, congestive hear failure, stroke, diabetes, colon cancer, peripheral vascular disease, morbid obesity and many more.  There is governmental protection of the food giants that allows billions of profits annually.  Yet Medicare is sinking fast due to the explosion of healthcare required to pay for these preventable diseases.  And healthcare providers are being punished by reducing and withholding reimbursement if we can't improve their health and prevent rehospitalization.  What's wrong with this picture?  I am held to account for not fixing something the government allowed, and even encouraged?
Minnesota_ReaderAN More than 1 year ago
This book should be required reading for anyone wanting to change their eating habits and living a healthier life. The system is rigged against you. They bombard you with advertising and also manipulate the food to get you hooked (in my opinion). After reading this book I realized I need to take charge of my eating habits and think more about what I eat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My brother, whom I always assumed was a little insane or "out there," has been saying for years that food companies add things to food to make them addictive. Not only is he right, but it's much worse than even he assumed. If you have a problem with your addiction to processed food, this book will at least open your eyes to the reality of what you are putting in your body. It might even make it less appetizing enough to help you make a change and get off the crap. So fascinating and readable as well!
Peter2016 More than 1 year ago
I think on some level I knew a lot of what he writes about, but nonetheless, having it all laid out there was eye-opening. Moss is a great journalist and this reads very well.
NBMinneapois More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book though it was a disorganized read, found myself wondering if the author was going to get to the point. Well researched. I eat pretty healthy but, like most busy Americans, rely on cheap, convenient foods. In the couple weeks since finishing this book, I find I am more mindful of what I am buying and eating. And, I think the exposure to the science (marketing and food engineering) gave me some tools to control myself when I succumb to my trigger foods. Somehow that knowledge that these foods are truly addictive has helped me curb my cravings. And, as I have known for many years, when I abstain completely, my cravings do go away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting book on how the giant food companies have been able to "pull the wool" over our eyes for so many years. It is also disheartening to have quite a few of the CEO's, etc. of these companies say they don't eat the food they market. What does that tell you about their products? If they don't eat them why should we!
drakevaughn More than 1 year ago
Not only should everyone in America read Salt Sugar Fat, but it should be required. Moss details the processed food industry, breaking down its contribution to the modern obesity crisis. The reporting is meticulous in detailing the rise of the corporate food giants and the tricks they use to entice consumers to their unhealthy products. Moss exposes how processed foods are loaded with extras to create an addictive bliss point, making them almost drug-like in their allure. Not only that, but he likewise details the excessive advertising and marketing (much directed at children) used to lure customers. Worst of all, he even gets some food executives to admit they don’t eat their company’s own products. The book leads to the unavoidable conclusion that the processed food industry’s race to the bottom (at Wall Street’s behest) has caused a public health crisis in America. Amazing five star reporting. By far, Salt Sugar Fat is the best book I’ve read this year.  
SoftRain More than 1 year ago
Good info and background on how the food giants got to be how they are. You will see their not-so-pretty path, our gov't's support and involvement, and learn at the same time some specific results of their tactics on our health and bodies. They knew what they were feeding us resulted in health problems, i.e., heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, etc., but they merrily and aggressively pursued their path of micro-studying our habits, likes/dislikes, what we want and need, to lead our health down the road to perdition so that they could/can exceed last yr's profits. What do we hear on the news today? "Shame on you, public, you need to exercise more." Well written and good read.
Mybookreview More than 1 year ago
Engaging writing gives the reader the feel of getting the “inside” information as we tag along with the author as he interviews processed food industry company top officials, advertisers and scientists, and visits research labs. The author reveals how the industry adjusts sugar, salt and fat in processed foods and beverages so that the consumer’s brain reaches the “bliss point” and the person craves more and more---thus resulting in health problems such as obesity. There is also a lot of information about how products are designed to be convenient and visually appealing, and where they are placed in supermarkets to entice buyers. The book essentially reveals how the processed food and beverage industry manipulates and misleads consumers into purchasing and eating unhealthful products so that the companies can meet the demands of Wall Street analysts for greater and greater profits. The book’s shortcoming is that it doesn’t tell readers what they can do, nor does it provide information about what health professionals and advocates are already doing.
JanetS9 More than 1 year ago
Great Read! Highly recommend! This is well written and really explains well how we got to this place with highly processed food, plus how your body responds to salt sugar and fat. I work in the industry, too, and I fully appreciate the business side and evolution that covered well meaning individuals colliding with need for profit. Additionally, taking advantage of poorer consumers and families added a more concerning element. It made me want to buy a farm before I was through. with it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Telling story of how the huge processed food industry has been decieving the public for years and became one of the major contributors to obesity in this country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent investigative reporting. So often books of this type will say all they have to say that's relevent in the first third of the book. Not so here. Powerful reporting from start to finish.
Escape314 More than 1 year ago
Could have been said in many less words
popscipopulizer More than 1 year ago
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, April 16, 2013. You open up a bag of chips intending to eat only a few handfuls. You find the chips tasting quite good, and a few handfuls turns into a few more. Just one more... o.k., last one... definitely the last one. A few minutes later you find yourself staring down at an empty bag. Then your stomach starts to hurt--then your heart. The guilt isn't far behind. Who among us hasn't experienced this at one time or another? This is junk food in a nutshell: it tastes great (practically irresistible) and is very convenient, but if you indulge too much (which sometimes seems all too easy), it's not too good for you. All of this has an easy explanation, it's right there on the label: impressive portions of salt, sugar and fat, the junk food trifecta. Each has its own appeal, and each is very inexpensive (which explains why it's in our food), but over the years each has also been implicated in some of our most common and serious conditions and diseases, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, the junk food trifecta is not only popping up in our junk food, it is increasingly being featured in virtually all of the processed foods that we eat--from chips and soda, to canned food and prepared meals, to cake and ice-cream. And as salt, sugar and fat have become more common in the foods that we eat, the conditions and illnesses associated with their abuse have reached epidemic proportions. In his new book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us journalist Michael Moss takes us behind the labels and explores the history and practices of the processed food industry--a story that features the rise of salt, sugar and fat, and the deterioration of our health. The journalistic expose is inherently a tension-filled genre. On the one hand, there is often an issue of real public concern at play; but on the other hand, it is ever in the interest of the journalist to inflate the controversy (and the blame). Moss does do a fairly good job of steering clear of these traps--for the most part--though the objective reader will occasionally rankle at Moss' presentation, and his choice of words and focus. On the whole, I've come away with a renewed interest and concern in just what goes into the food that I eat, and how much salt, sugar and fat it contains--and this, I think, is very valuable in itself. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, April 16. A podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
Anonymous 5 months ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Therre was lot of research which was nice and though it took me a while to get through it definatey has helped me to understand how the corporation works without demonizing them. Especially since i was a child when a lot of the commercial social moves were put into action in the 1990s an 2000s. It is nice to hear an explanation about the shifts that i have grown up absorbing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. I finished it weeks ago, and I still can't stop talking about it, spouting out facts from the book till I wear my friends down and they agree to also read the book. The only thing keeping it from getting 5 stars from me is that the book is at times repetative, and occasionally Moss seems to get on a soapbox (and possibly jump to conclusions - possibly not; his rants may be backed up by facts he found while researching the book, but those facts aren't cited in the notes). However, I still consider this an excellent book that I recommend to anyone and everyone.
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Everyone should read this book!!!