Michael Moss is a New York Time Pulitzer prize awarded investigative journalist. In this book, he is on the path of opening our eyes to the strategies of processed food industry. Backed by meticulous, well-documented research, book opens our eyes to the fact that processed food industry stands on three pillars – salt, sugar and fat (and lots of it!)
Without massive amounts of the three, the whole industry would crumble. It shows us how food giants take advantage of our biology and brain chemistry, how they create products, not with nutrition but with addiction in mind, and how, by copying methods from the tobacco industry, they create marketing campaigns that cloud our judgment about health concerns of our food sources.
In the food labs across the US, scientists in white coats are observing children and adults through one-way mirrors, trying sample after sample of certain product until they find the “bliss point”.
“Bliss point” is a term used for the perfect amount of salt, sugar or fat that produces a rush of endorphins, makes us come back for more, or in another word, creates addiction.
Companies actually admit this by referring to their most faithful customers as “heavy users” – the term usually reserved for hard drug addicts. We learn that the main goal for the companies is not the nutritional value of food, but the taste, flavor and sensory satisfaction and all that at the expense of our health.
When you finish this book you will not look at food labeling and marketing in the same way. I can envision ‘Mad men style’ meeting rooms or teams, backed by high price lawyers coming up with cryptic labels that somehow satisfy the USDA regulations, while at the same time sending you a wrong picture about the food you are consuming.
Thanks to them, you are consuming sugar water that is labeled Real fruit juice or Natural fruit juice. No added sugar label can be stamped on high sugar products, Low fat labeled products are high in sugar and salt or Low sugar ones are high in fat and salt, and so on…
What surprises me the most is the amount of honesty that Michael Moss extracts from scientists and business people in these companies. All this information is openly shared by people involved in the process and freely available in the documents available to the public.
He even convinces them to make a “healthy” versions of their products with “normal” amount of salt, sugar, and fat. What he ends up are, by his own testimony, sad looking, tasteless products that no one would eat or buy.
So I guess, the main message of this book is that we have to take responsibility ourselves and vote with our wallets because it is our health that is at stake.
In the words of Michael Moss “We rarely get in the situation where our body and brain are depleted of nutrients and are actually in need of replenishment. Rather, he discovered, we are driven to eat by other forces in our lives. Some of these are emotional needs, while others reflect the pillars of processed food: first and foremost taste, followed by the aroma, appearance, and texture.“