I recently finished reading Michele Simon's beautifully crafted and systematic exposé, Appetite For Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How To Fight Back -- wow, talk about an eye opener. Published in 2006, but even more relevant today, Appetite For Profit puts corporate nutrition spin, lobby groups, front organizations and political jockeying squarely in the spotlight. I never put much credence in advertising of any kind when making my own decisions, and I am sure that I chuckled when the Smurfs got busted for landing a cereal in their own name, but I was quite unaware of the effort and expense that some food companies will go to to make it OK to serve nutritionally unhealthy foods in virtually any venue -- including public grade schools. Simon's strongest, and most compelling agenda is to protect children from predatory marketing schemes, but her message rings so clearly on all fronts that I am now even more suspect of any and all so-called advocacy groups that claim a warm-fuzzy mission, while pushing some profit-serving legislation in the background. Thankfully, Simon includes an entire set of appendices that help decipher the coded language that spinsters use to fool consumers, discredit critics and coddle government regulators; help you to elicit positive change; and offer talking points when you find yourself under code-word attack.
As a polished public health lawyer, Michele Simon puts her substantial analytical skills to work in Appetite For Profit analyzing case studies in an entirely accessible way. Her approach is objective and pragmatic, which is why her work is so appealing to a skeptic like me. When you get to see the point-counterpoint analysis associated with marketing healthy-labeled sugar and trans-fat laden foods to children, there really isn't any but a dark conclusion to make. Some food companies have gotten quite comfortable with positioning nutritionally bankrupt fare as virtually amazing. A well-known national "Better Than Water" campaign for marketing sugar and sodium rich sports drinks makes an excellent example. How on earth could any drink be better than pure clean water for the average person? Sure, if you are in the middle of the most grueling physical expenditure of your life, rehydrating with a drink that might add back some electrolytes and glucose might have limited value. But for the average sedentary kid's lunch box? Doubtful. And did you know that the "balanced lifestyle" concept is really the product of spinsters attempting to divert attention from industrial food's desire to sell more from the problems associated with consumers eating more calories than they require. It is, after all, up to the consumer to balance her lifestyle to ensure that she gets sufficient exercise to make empty-calorie-laden foods a convenient and OK choice. Right?
Appetite For Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How To Fight Back is a must read for parents, everyone who eats out or through the grocery store, spinsters, policy makers, and anyone else who cares about the truth, truth in advertising, nourishing food, safe food, and the future of mankind. If knowledge is indeed power, then it's time to acquire the tools required to separate food fact from fiction. Reading Appetite For Profit will jump start your efforts to discover food truth and will empower you to cut through the junk the next time you are at the grocery store.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.