The International Writers Magazine: Review
The Three Pillars
Salt Sugar Fat - How the Food Giants Hooked Us
By Michael Moss
Mclelland and Stewart 2013
Random House Paperback $10.12
It’s bad enough what the oil and pharmaceutical companies have done to us. Not to mention the banks. But to find, reading this book, that Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds, the cigarette manufacturers, are now running a large part of the food business, it’s almost too much to believe. I guess it shouldn’t be.
The same people who defended tobacco till the end are still selling their products in the same calculated, deceptive ways to maximize profits and the same Wall Street managers are telling them to do it. Their products are processed foods and they use every bit of sugar, salt and fat they need to find the public’s “bliss point”, hold it and keep it. The bliss point is combined with the convenience of instant food and snacks and is just too tempting to hurried parents.
In a shocking exposure of the American and the worldwide food system, Michael Moss, a winner of the Pulitzer prize and a tenacious and serious writer, and even more important, a concerned father, exposes overwhelming evidence that most of the medical emergencies which America and the world have experienced in the past thirty years, (eg) the high blood pressure alarm, the obesity epidemic and the diabetes scare, are attributable to the nutrition of the population and its dependence upon processed food. There is a long list of types of cancer associated with processed food.
‘As food manufacturers knew very well and as I would find out by moving the reporting of this book from Madison to Washington, when it comes to nutrition, the role the government plays is less a matter of regulation than it is promotion of some of the industry practices deemed most threatening to the health of consumers.’
Michael Moss pp. 211 Salt, Sugar, Fat
The government regulators who we think are taking care of us, aren’t. The processed food lobbyists financially outgun any of the pathetically funded regulatory agencies. Every time there is an attempt to legally cut back on the salt, sugar and fat in our diets, there is a serious pushback by the industries affected. The mayor of New York city was recently laughed at as a nanny for trying to regulate the sugar industry. Anyone who wants to limit or cut back seriously on the salt, sugar and fat in our diets is accused of being against capitalism.
But this isn’t some wild eyed lefty conspiracy theorist spouting propaganda. It’s a well respected investigative reporter who can back up his claims with evidence. From many hours of interviews, court documents and documents obtained both with and without access to information requests, Michael Moss has carefully gone through the histories of the industries of salt, sugar and fat and told their stories. Many of the people in the industries were open about their participation. Several ex CEOs and presidents have recanted and very few use their own products.
We’re talking about brands and products which are familiar to all of us, the most well known in the world. They do billions of dollars worth of business yearly.
Brands and products like Kraft, General Foods, Nabisco, Tang, Kool-Aid, Coke, Pepsi, Twinkie, Jell-o, Dr Pepper, Campbell Soup, Snapple, 7-Up, Doritos, Maxwell House, Folger’s, Hamburger Helper, Pringles, Prego, Ragu, Pepperidge Farm, Oreo, Cadbury, Kellogg, Postum, Cocoa Puffs, Frosted Flakes, Unilever, Nestle. There are many more. You get the idea. You’d have to be living under a rock for the past 30 years not to have used their products.
Salt, Sugar, Fat cites the evidence and testimony of expert after expert who blame the health crisis and associated costs (billions of dollars) on the processed food industry. Lack of education and exercise are associated with poor nutrition but it is generally agreed that processed food is the big culprit. Big tobacco was eventually defeated in court when states got together and insisted that “You caused the medical crisis, you pay for it”.
The book is divided into 14 chapters. 1 to 6 make up Part One: Sugar, 7 to 11, Part 2, Fat, and Chapters 12 to 14 make up Part 3, Salt. There is an epilogue, a section for acknowledgements, a note on sources, other notes chapter by chapter, a selected bibliography and an index.
One of the best anecdotes was about the gentleman who invented Cheez Whiz and bought some as he and his wife enjoyed their retirement in Florida. He didn’t like the taste of it, in fact, called it “axle grease”. After a long and serious investigation the company had to admit that he was right, there was actually no cheese or cheese products in the Cheez Whiz.
It almost seemed normal, after reading how the companies targeted diabetics and bombarded young children with irresistible advertising, to read how Nestle, a giant headquartered in Switzerland and visited by Moss, fattens up the population so that hundreds of thousands need stomach surgery each year and only Nestle can provide the special drink they need while recovering.
When the big processed food manufacturers need to, they fall back on the media strategies they know best, the ones which were so successful selling cigarettes for so long.
The famous “mechanical tenderizers” which are suspected in the recent Alberta outbreak of salmonella poisoning are mentioned in the part of the book dealing with Oscar Mayer processed meats. The cereal business, baked goods, the cattle and dairy industries, they’re all present. All are complicit, if not guilty outright, in one of the biggest scandals the world has ever seen.
Thank you, Michael Moss
If you don’t like getting conned, deceived, fooled or manipulated, read this book.
© Steve Wheeler. Sept 2014
stevellie at hotmail.com
*Editor's note: As a recent heart attack victim I have read and watched Forks over Knives and started
The Starch Solution - if you want to save your life or your families' pay heed to Michael Moss and start preparing your own food. Now!