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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, February 2013 - I’m going to go ahead and predict that Salt Sugar Fat will be the biggest exposé to hit the food industry since Fast Food Nation. Intelligently and lucidly written (by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, no less), this book is going to make serious waves. It’s already causing mini-waves in my own home as I frantically figure out what in the world to stock my cupboard with. In Salt Sugar Fat we meet the major players inside the processed food industry, as well as learning about all the things that they understand about human nature that the average person doesn’t. Quite simply, we are built to crave salt, sugar, and fat, and the big food companies make sure they deliver it cheaply and by the truckload. You’ll never view food – and your relationship with it – the same again. —Emily, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2013 Michael Moss (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Very Compelling Narrative

While the number of books demonizing the food industry grows larger every year, this one deserves a place very near the top. Moss just lays out the economic and human drivers behind the fundamental alteration in the food chain. There is just a wealth of fascinating information, and human interest stories.

But then there's Scott Brick. Why does every sentence have to sound like a roller coaster? It wears you out after a while. Luckily, this is a Whispersync for Voice book, so I can consume most of it on my Kindle.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Vanessa
  • Albany, NY, United States
  • 04-23-13

Enough to make you loose your lunch

Any additional comments?

Food justice and access to nutritious food is one of my interests. This book did not disappoint as it traced the increasingly industrial process of bringing our food to market and how the processes strips our food of nutrition. It also clearly shows how food production is no longer a quest to feed people but to improve both market share and Wall Street performance.

A challenging read and, I hope, just one more nail in the coffin of big, industrial food production. If this does not challenge us to grow our own gardens and support local food producers I do not know what will. Even more importantly it clearly shows that good, nutritious food is becoming the preserve of the rich and those on limited and no incomes are not able to access the food their bodies need.

Loosing our lunch in its processed pre-packaged form is not only a health issue, it is a social justice issue and I hope that we can all add our voices to the increasing need to transform our food economy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Narrator definitely over the top

Would you listen to Salt Sugar Fat again? Why?

No-I would read it. The narrator makes every sentence a life and death affair.

What three words best describe Scott Brick’s performance?

Over the TOP.

Any additional comments?

As a previous reviewer said, as important a topic as this is, it was a shame that it was so hard to listen to.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I started to eat differently the day I read this.

What did you love best about Salt Sugar Fat?

This is an overall great book. It is a first person review of the history and science behind what the food industry knows about your impulsive tastes and how they use Salt, Sugar and Fat to control an addictive like desire.Once You educate yourself, you can choose whats best for you.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The narration was good enough to make me want to remember the words and how it made me feel when I first heard them.

Which scene was your favorite?

The interviews with industry insiders.

Any additional comments?

Listen to this book if your interested in knowing more about how the choices about what you eat are really being made by food industry professionals, especially if you think your the one choosing. You will be surprised.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Laurie
  • Florence, KY, United States
  • 04-07-13

Read this now

If you have an interest in health and how food plays such a part in your overall wellness, then I would recommend this book. It's along the lines of others such as "Fast Food Nation", "Supersize Me", and Michael Pollan's books. I found it enlightening, but you have to be interested in the topic; alot of my friends and family prefer to be left in the dark when it comes to the food they prefer.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • CR
  • Frisco, TX
  • 01-05-16

4.5 stars: Recommended reading to raise awareness

I'm tempted to give 5 stars because I can't find any faults with the book. But I reserve that rating for a book I really loved (for entertainment or educational value) and/or would reference again. I doubt I'll get much from re-reading this one later. That said, I recommend you read it to increase your awareness of what the food manufactures do (I'd say because they have to to make money by giving the consumer what they want - although I'm sure others believe they do it because they're all evil and greedy).

I liked that the author didn't bash the industry or preach not to eat this or that. He just laid out the information (presumably facts) and lets the reader decide what to do about it. I am now more aware and will likely make healthier choices as a result, but I'm not swearing off any foods or ingredients.

The author covers, obviously, Salt, Sugar, & Fat, but also goes into things like how the industry optimizes products based on consumers' tastes as well as cost considerations. He covers products like Dr. Pepper, Kool Aid, and Lunchables. He explains the government's role in the over production of milk and cheese (which then leads to the industry trying to find ways to get us to eat more of the fat... for example 33-35 lbs / yr of cheese for the average American. Mmmm Pizza!

The book seems well researched and covers a breadth of relevant topics, but it's not boring. There are some cool things I learned, like the "bliss point" which is the term where a manufacturer optimizes the sweetness range for consumers to make the product taste the best to most people while not over-spending on sugar.

Oh, one thing the author failed to convince me of is his occasional attempt to create an analogy between salt, sugar, and fat with drug addiction. I'm not saying a person can;t be addicted to food; I'm just saying the author's analogies and points did not provide evidence enough to me to support the claim that sugar is like cocaine and fat is like opium (or whatever it is he said exactly).

I do read food labels and I'm aware of how different foods impact hunger and satiety. I lost a bunch of weight by counting calories and became educated by doing so. I mainly look at fat, carbs (and sugar especially), and protein when I am watching what I eat, but I also have noticed how much salt is in food. It's shocking, given I don't feel like I'm a person who likes salty food. I NEVER add salt to anything, just because I never really liked it or felt anything needed it. BUT I also don't usually think a can of soup or whatever is over salty until I look at the label. It's sneaky and I think often goes under the radar since it has no calories. I also have good blood pressure, so I don't necessarily have a reason to look for it. That said, I know inherently that too much is bad and so I do look to limit my intake when possible. The thing is; it's VERY hard when eating any fast food or packaged/processed food.

And THAT IS THE BIG TAKE-AWAY from this book. Fast Food / Processed Food utilizes these ingredients in a strategic way to sell more and improve the food's shelf-life. So if you want to limit your salt/sugar/fat, then YOU MUST LIMIT YOUR INTAKE of Fast Food / Processed Food.

To close, I recommend the book. I also think that the food industry is where it is because they give the consumer what they are willing to pay for; taste, convenience, low-price. AND because most consumers aren't aware of the health implications. They don't even bother reading the nutrition labels and ingredients most of the time. I support consumer education and then eventually more consumers will "boycott" the "bad" foods and create a demand for "healthful" foods. Then the industry will put their R&D and marketing power behind better solutions. Manufacturers compete based on what's important to consumers.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A fascinating insider view of the food industry

When I learned that Michael Moss wrote this book based on a food industry insider suggestion that he research how the industry uses salt, sugar, and fat, I knew I had to read it. This book lays open an insider view of the food business, and feels (in a good way) like a cross between a nutrition guide, a business book, and a marketing tips/tricks white paper. There is so much interesting detail outlined that it's impossible to do it justice in a brief review... Moss leaves no stone unturned and no "sacred cow" unexamined. He looks at how foods that are inherently unhealthy (e.g., fruit flavored yogurt, which is loaded with sugar) are marketed as health foods, and how salt, sugar, and fat are often used for their nearly addictive qualities, in addition to the more mundane task of preserving shelf life. He cites examples of when food companies attempt to make healthier versions of certain foods, they suffer because their competitors seize upon the formula change to grab market share.

Perhaps the most interesting element of the book is how the insiders Moss interviewed generally don't eat the food their companies sell (viewing it as unhealthy). He also traces the experience of insiders who experienced a "crisis of conscience" about how their companies' products affect public health. Moss doesn't condemn the food industry insiders for the choices they make (that negatively impact public health) but rather notes they're largely trying to do what they feel is best for their company in the competitive market place and preserving the company's bottom line.

I listened to the audio version of this book. Narrator Scott Brick struck the perfect tone throughout, making this a fun and fascinating listen. I'd rate this in the top three of any audiobook I've ever read, it's that good. Whether you're interested in nutrition, public health, business, or marketing, this is a must listen/read. Very highly recommended.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kurt
  • Warabi-shi, Japan
  • 03-20-13

Difficult but necessary listen

Take this review with a grain of salt, as I'm new to audiobooks and in fact Salt Sugar Fat was my first ever audiobook. I'm still processing whether I like audiobooks, or which books are good for audio, and which books I should read on paper. Also, I struggled with issues of staying focused while listening (usually on crowded train rides to/from work) and having to keep up with many names (both of people and of products/chemicals) without the ability to turn back a page or two, etc.

Having grown up on much of the food and companies discussed, be it Fritos or Oscar Meyer bologna, Mac & Cheese, et al., not to mention being recently diagnosed as borderline diabetic, this book forced a lot of soul searching in terms of how much I'm to blame for my poor eating habits and health, and how much blame can be laid at the feet of these processed food companies. Naturally I am not blameless, but frankly I never realized the extent with which these companies also shared the blame. Moss lays out the case that they should share a lot of blame, and for the most part I was there with him. Partly this is due to Moss being able to find food industry people who now regret some of their companies' excesses, while also showing some sympathy to the fact that these are companies with shareholders and responsibilities to grow the bottom line.

As other reviews have mentioned, the narration does tend toward the conspiratorial and in fact makes Moss sound more hard-hitting than I think he is.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating look at how processed food.

This book is still relevant today. The forces it outlines are still in play. 5 years later.

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Open your eyes to what big food has caused

This is an informative look at how we’ve been duped into eating all wrong. Read how sugar has been the cause of the epidemic we now have.