Salt Sugar Fat - How the Food Giants Hooked Us
In the spring of 1999 the heads of the world’s largest process 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 North American east 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 on in five kids is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans (2.5 million Canadians) have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales ($100 Billion in Canada) and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year ($30 billion in Canada).
In Sat, 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, Frito-Lay, Nestlé, Oreos, Cargill, Capri-Sun, and many more – Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous 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 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 as nutrition labels the same way again. RR
2013 - Michael Moss
is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for New York Times
and Wall Street Journal.