WHAT NOT TO EAT: Food Marketing Methods Fuel Diabetes and Obesity Epidemics

By Ferrie, Helke | CCPA Monitor, October 2007 | Go to article overview

WHAT NOT TO EAT: Food Marketing Methods Fuel Diabetes and Obesity Epidemics


Ferrie, Helke, CCPA Monitor


WHAT NOT TO EAT: Food marketing methods fuel diabetes and obesity epidemics Book Review by Helke Ferrie What To Eat, by Marion Nestle, North Point Press, New York, 2006. Available on amazon.com in paperback for $10.

Wow! What a book! I hope and pray that somebody has already nominated Marion Nestle for the "Alternate Nobel Prize," Sweden's Right Livelihood Award, which she richly deserves because with this book she has performed a unique and extraordinary service for humanity.

Marion Nestle is professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University. Having served as a policy advisor to the US. government's Department of Health and Human Services and on the scientific advisory committees of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), she is intimately acquainted with the ruthless tactics the giant food retailers use to ensure shareholder satisfaction at the expense of nutritional science and public health.

She shows us how supermarket foods are the reason we have a diabetes epidemic and why 60% of Americans-and nearly as many Canadians-are overweight. Nestle knows all about the labelling and marketing methods that are designed "to be invisible" so as to "slip below the radar screen of critical thinking."

Nestle's advisory work for the FDA also gave her an insider's view of how government and corporations interact-as client and servant-the servant being a government that pushes corporate profits regardless of the consequences for public health. (Nestle gave us a hair-curling account of that relationship in her 2003 book Food Politics, which described how these giant food corporations have transformed our government watchdogs into lap-dogs.)

In What to Eat, she takes the reader through the local supermarket-aisle by aisle, shelf by shelf, product by product-and tells us everything the food industry would rather we didn't know or ask about everything that's frozen, canned, bottled, pickled, and plastic-packaged. She decodes for the reader, as she goes, what masquerades as science in all that fine print, and makes us aware of the powerful use of images intended to speak to the heart, the gut, our nurturing instincts, and, above all, to our appetites.

There are currently about 320,000 different food and beverage products available, and even a small supermarket will carry about 30,000 items. The five major corporations generate about $350 billion in sales annually, and a profit of about $3.5 billion. Wal-Mart alone rakes in $64 billion in sales from produce, about 25% of its total annual sales. In order to fan the fire of more and more demand, sophisticated research methods are employed which can be accurately verified by comparing surveys with the actual items bought the check-out scanners contain the information of what you bought last Saturday.

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