Salt Sugar Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

salt sugar fat

The title of this book is pretty self-explanatory.  It is about the processed food that seems to be taking over America (and giving is a pretty good go in the rest of the developed world, too), how much of these three things it contains, and how the manufacturers are working hard to sell it to us.

He takes each of the three sinful things and explains why we love them.  He tells us what sort of food it is in and how much of it is in that type of food.  He tells us how the companies developed some of the worst offending processed foods, and how they are marketed to us.  It is all quite interesting, but there’s nothing ground-breaking in here, in my opinion.  Processed food is bad for you.  This is not a news flash to me.  Is it to anyone?  Soda contains lots of sugar and the companies that make it are trying to find ways to make you buy more of it.  Are you shocked?

I am a Brit living in America, and I was surprised when I entered my first American Wal-Mart at the amount of choice of boxed processed items, and the lack of choice of actual food.  There are of course stores where you can buy actual food, but I still struggle to keep some variety in my weekly grocery shop.  This book tells the story of many revolting-sounding popular American food products, such at the vast array of sugary cereal I am amazed people feed to their children, and the yellow, tasteless gloop they call cheese over here.  Oreos were not sold in the UK until recently, and in reading this book I learnt why; our authorities would not allow it for health reasons.  They would not allow some Kraft cheese products, either, but we have proper cheese that tastes of something in our country, so I cannot imagine that they would have sold anyway.

So, if we know that crisps/chips contain fat and salt and Coke contains sugar and McDonald’s contains… actually, I’m not sure what McDonald’s contains, but anyway, what is Moss’ point?  He says it is a wake-up call about what the food industry is up to.  It is to let us know that we have choices; we can buy food, or we can buy that food-like product in a box that may have been put in that box over a year ago.  So, if you feel you need that wake-up call about how you fuel your body, then this book is for you.  If you knew all along that fruit and vegetables existed, but still want to enjoy being horrified at the evil of a large corporation, then this book is for you, too.

Moss uses the analogy that sugar is the methamphetamine of food ingredient, and he explains how food producers have made it even more so.  Fat is apparently the opiate of the food world.  But when the two are together is when they pack the best punch.  Yes, I know.  Don’t we all know that?  Everyone loves sugar and fat, although, in my opinion, salt does not even come close.  I do not have salt as an ingredient in the house, although I do eat out a lot, so I am sure I eat my daily recommended amount.  Moss explains how it is needed in almost every processed food.  We know that processed food is full of this stuff, the trick is to exercise a little self-control and not overdose on it.  Or maybe I’m wrong, perhaps not everyone knows this.  Moss tells of programs in the UK and Finland where the governments have attempted to inform the public of what they ought to be eating.  There seems to be little of this in America, but what planet does a person (OK, an adult) have to be on to not know that a Coke has lots of sugar in it?  Should we not be taking responsibility for our own health?  Marketing has been around for a long time, and we should know that we need not buy every product that we are told that we need or want.  The US government is doing  little things to help the situation, though.  They recently forced PepsiCo to change the labeling on their Tropicana Peach Papaya Juice to reflect the fact that it contained no peaches, no papayas, and was not juice.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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One Response to Salt Sugar Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

  1. Pingback: Salt, Sugar, Fat Book Review | Becky A. Johnson

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