Last month I read the much talked about book Salt, Sugar, Fat. Okay I know I’m a few years behind, but curiosity finally got the better of me.
The book gave some really interesting insights into the food industry and the history, science, marketing, and people behind it. My default is to be skeptical when reading books like this because they can often be very one sided. In this case, the author took an anti-food industry stance and mostly presented information to support his argument, although he included some of the food industry’s perspective as well. In general I found it very well researched and I tended to trust what the author was saying.
And what he was saying was essentially this: the number one priority of food companies is making a profit. Everything else comes after that, including the public’s health. The author provided a few really compelling examples of this, for instance when Campbell’s added salt back into their reduced salt soups because their sales dropped too much. Or when Kraft used a loophole to produce indulgent cookies despite the company’s anti-obesity initiative that placed caps on fat, sugar, and salt in its products.
This book provided me with a whole lot of insights like these, but honestly, after reading it I had the same opinion of the food industry that I had before reading it. And surprisingly, my opinion is not that the food industry is evil.
See, I like to be realistic. I’m not one of those people who will tell you to avoid all packaged foods and only eat foods that have one ingredient. Because that’s not realistic. We’re human and we’re busy. And there are actually some packaged foods that are really quite healthy (perhaps a topic for another post?).
So my takeaway from this book is not that food companies are the devil to be avoided at all costs. But they are not your friend either. They don’t have your best interests at heart and they are not here to help you make healthy choices.
What this book reinforced is that we need to be responsible for our own food choices and our own health. Trusting the claims on packaged foods isn’t enough because the aim of these claims isn’t to help you make a healthier choice – their aim is to sell the food to you by appealing to your health consciousness. So we need to be advocates for our own health at the grocery store by looking at ingredient lists, reading food labels, and not falling for marketing gimmicks (if you want to learn more about reading food labels, this is a great resource).
We will likely always have opposing interests to the food industry (our health versus making profits) so it’s important to stand up for ours!
What did you think of this book if you’ve read it? Do you agree that profit will always be the first priority of the food industry, or do you think nutrition could become more important?