From a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The New York Times comes the explosive story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. Michael Moss reveals how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict us and, more important, how we can fight back.
Every year, the average American eats 33 pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and 70 pounds of sugar (about 22 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 one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that 26 million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year.
In Salt 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, Nestlé, Oreos, Cargill, Capri Sun, and many more - Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous, often 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 the 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 at a nutrition label the same way again.
©2013 Michael Moss (P)2013 Random House Audio
"What happens when one of the country’s great investigative reporters infiltrates the most disastrous cartel of modern times: a processed food industry that’s making a fortune by slowly poisoning an unwitting population? You get this terrific, powerfully written book, jammed with startling disclosures, jaw-dropping confessions and, importantly, the charting of a path to a better, healthier future. This book should be read by anyone who tears a shiny wrapper and opens wide. That’s all of us." (Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President)
"In this meticulously researched book, Michael Moss tells the chilling story of how the food giants have seduced everyone in this country. He understands a vital and terrifying truth: that we are not just eating fast food when we succumb to the siren song of sugar, fat, and salt. We are fundamentally changing our lives - and the world around us.” (Alice Waters)
There are times when you listen to horror audiobooks for sheer listening enjoyment.
In this case, it's all too real, and you are the victim.
Moss is, essentially, an industry whistleblower. A food industry whistleblower, to be precise. And what he reveals is something many of us suspected, but is no less dramatically disturbing.
Basically the food industry is creating and adding extremely addictive chemicals to processed foods of all types, with the single intent to get you to buy more, eat more, and repeat ad nauseum. Salt, sugar and fat additives are manipulated at the molecular level to cause the pleasure centers of the consumer's brain (the very same pleasure centers affected by heroin addicts) to dramatically respond to and become addicted to the taste of the grocery store foods you eat, causing you to again, buy more, eat more, thus fattening yourself as well the food industry's (and the health insurance industry's) sizable wallets.
These additives are now causing a generation of pre-teen illnesses once only seen in the very elderly, and causing the soon to retire baby boomers to face illnesses that don't have to be endured.
We have placed our trust in the food industry, quickly swallowing, literally, what we're told. It's time to wake up, to realize that trust has been nightmarishly broken, and our very health and lives are in danger. And the food industry couldn't care less.
These reveals aren't speculation, but facts backed up by insider company documentation, with more discovered on a daily basis. The sheer amount of proven conclusions are stunning, and the result is a national disaster. Moss was recently on the Oz show, among others, and is spreading the word. It's sobering, and it's scary, to state it plainly.
I can speak solidly on this audiobook's conclusions, having once weighed 390 pounds and endured a horrible physical lifestyle. I began to do the research, and discovered much speculation regarding what Moss has now proven to be fact. It disturbed me so much, that it changed my life, and I went on a strict program of healthier foods, additional water intake, and walking daily. As the processed foods remains washed out of my body, I began to lose a dramatic amount of weight, my health returned, and I felt better than I had in a very long time. I've kept the weight off, and enjoy my life immensely. I'm living proof that these processed foods can damage you, and that it's not too late to change.
Dear Audible listener, note the star rating I've given this book. VERY FEW of my reviews garnish such a positive recommendation. I cannot help by make this my most highly recommended listen thus far for 2013. And when you listen, I'm confident that you'll agree.
I appreciate that you've taken the time to read this review. Now, take the time to learn the truth about what you eat, and what it's doing to you.
Stop being the victim.
I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.
Salt Sugar Fat is almost unthinkable. Not just in its content, in the unimaginable marketing strategies, innumerable addatives with powerful addicting properties, deceptive tactics, and blatant disregard for consumer health described in this book; not just in the sheer timeline and product scope of the reporting; not just in the reasoned approached the author takes to the shocking evidence uncovered; but also in Michael Moss's skill at investigative reporting and his ability to uncover the full strategies and willful ignorance that defines the mega food corporations.
Divided into three sections (Sugar, Fat, and then Salt) he takes us through the history of products that rely on these ingredients to hook, keep, and addict us. It is a stunning work of reporting in detail and scale. More impressive, is Moss's ability to remain dispassionate and intellectual as the book picks up steam. It is non-fiction, but I tore through this book with the same speed as I do a skillful thriller. This book is as addictive as the products it discusses. You will learn the unending reliance the food conglomerates have on sugar, salt, and fat and what this reliance has done to our collective health. Bringing all this wonderful writing to you is Scott Brick, possibly the best reader in the Audible catalogue.
This book makes my list of the best books I've read this year. It'll make yours too.
I really liked this book. One of the most compelling and telling facts that I took away from it is that the people who create processed foods, in general, actively shy away from consuming them in their own diet. The history of processed foods is well told here. The moral of the story: try not to eat foods that require chemists, engineers and lawyers to produce. You'll be happier and live longer.
Equal parts Fast Food Nation, The Informant!, and The Omnivore's Dilemma. It does a great job of showing the closed door meetings, food industry rivalries, Wall Street, the government, as well as our own demands that have gotten us into the cluster we are in today. It was highly informative in not only mentioning the key players behind the food giants (like Cargill that provides the salt/sugar/fat and Monell that does the taste research), but also in the gradual developments and insider terms/tricks (stomach share, bliss point, checkoff money, line extension, single serving, vanishing caloric density) that have come together for the perfect storm of our obesity problem. Food = Drugs. I'm not going to lie... it made me want cookies, cheese, and chips pretty bad, though!
If you want to know what caused the obesity epidemic, here it is!
Sugar, Salt, Fat is about how the processed food industry figured out how to use sugar, salt, and fat to make processed foods taste more than just good, but to make them something close to addictive. With this technology, they could make cheap, unnutritious foods taste good, and use the resulting high margins to fund advertising to drive demand. The food industry also made these foods more convenient than cooking. They even played a role in killing off home economics in the schools to ensure the next generation would not know how to cook.
Oh, one little side-effect that the industry needs to sweep under the rug: because these processed foods are so unlike foods found in nature, the body body can't properly gauge when these foods make the body full -- causing people to consume far more calories than they need.
Some interesting angles to the story are the involvement of the tobacco industry, such as Phillip Morris’s acquisition of food companies; and the healthy lifestyles pursued by the food industry executives, who eat their own products far more sparingly than the general public does.
This is not rocket science, but it’s great investigative journalism. It may be the best investigative journalism about the food industry since Upton Sinclair's work a century ago about food impurities. Yes, that good; that important.
One minor annoyance is that the narrator, Scott Brick, over dramatizes. Brick mostly narrates fiction, which he should probably stick to. He was perhaps chosen because he did an excellent narration of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (another great book for folks concerned about modern food), but that book was more of a memoir, making it a better fit with his narration style. Sugar, Salt, Fat is pure investigative journalism. The emotional level of Brick’s reading doesn’t fit with this genre.
The point that is made over and over - that the obesity epidemic was scientifically engineered to get the exact results it has produced, i.e. sell a lot of processed food with no concern for health - is devastating to whatever crumb of credibility the food industry has left. The research that Michael Moss presents I found to be comprehensive and convincing. I hope parents take the time to listen to this and think of how to change the behaviors that "convenience" foods have instilled in the tastes of our kids. It is worth the time and the credit. Otherwise, we are out gunned in the fight.
On a purely personal note, I find the narration slightly overly conspiratorial and breathless. But I got used to it after awhile.
Moss interviews food scientists and corporate leaders to detail exactly how our American diet has been manipulated by the processed food creators. Human response to food additives has been so well studied and understood that I became convinced we are all being duped. Without full knowledge of how each product is made, we are defenseless against the subtle emotional and physiological responses that the food companies use to sell their products.
I am not a fan of Scott Brick's narration. The diction is perfect, but his tone of bleak resignation and condescension detracts from a great listen. He is easy to follow but I think the book sounds more even-handed than his tone implies.
One of the best narrators forgets that over dramatizing makes the book hard to listen to. Let the words speak for themselves.
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
‘Salt, Sugar, Fat' is a depressing expose of the processed food industry. It’s a fairly detailed analysis of how the industry has crammed more and more of these three ingredients into food, and the resulting havoc wrought on the health of Americans. Dramatically increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke have arisen as the population has become increasingly dependent on fast, cheap, convenient, tasty food and drink containing frightening amounts of these eponymous ingredients, as well as a whole load of other chemicals to flavour, colour and preserve the food and increase its shelf-life. The same problem has now been inflicted on other, poorer, nations, such as Mexico as the corporate giants have colonised other markets in their relentless pursuit of greater profits.
Over time, some sections of the public have become more aware of the health hazards associated with these foods, but it hasn’t really reduced the scale of the problem. Attempts to introduce government regulation in the US have largely been scuppered by the lobbyists representing the powerful food and agriculture industries. There has been some effort on the part of the food corporations to reduce the quantities of salt, sugar and fat in their products, but these reductions have been fairly minor, token cuts and haven’t reduced the scale of the problem. Many people have cravings for these powerfully tempting products and can’t cut back effectively, and often don’t have the time, awareness or motivation to make radical changes to their lifestyles. Advertising and marketing campaigns are cleverly designed to make processed food seem irresistible, and of course advertisers are more likely to emphasize health benefits than to warn of the dangers of eating these products.
The World has surely got itself into a sorry mess when people are encouraged to oversize their drink portions so that they are ingesting 44 teaspoons of sugar in their giant cup of fizzy soda, while people in other countries starve to death in droves. The companies defend themselves by saying that no one is being forced to consume their products. It’s a free market and they are only selling what people want. But surely, for the sake of the health of everyone, there should be a massive education campaign telling people how they are potentially harming themselves by eating fast food. There should be limits on the amounts of salt, sugar and fat that can be included in processed foods, as there are in other countries. Surely enough is enough?
Lawyer, reader, writer, performer. Just love listening to books and talking about it!
It's hard to shock a veteran lawyer, but this book did it. Wish I had known this years ago. This book is not another fad diet book, rather, it is a food industry exposé. Even if you take it with a proverbial grain if salt, you'll be disturbed. I grew up on a farm where we ate mostly the food we raised. Now I'm even more motivated to return to the ways of my youth.
I do agree that the narrator is a bit too dramatic; it is distracting. But don't let it discourage you from this important work.
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