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


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I have been reading this book since June! Juuuune! My god that's crazy. In my defence, this was the sort of book that couldn't be skimmed through. Each chapter needed to be taken in and slowly digested. The amount of research that went into this book is astounding. No stone is left unturned. No giant left un-slayed.  This is what I've learned:

Food is not baked, boiled or fried. It is engineered. 

I was always of the opinion that if you're fat, its your fault. No one else's. Harsh, I know. I have been lucky enough to have stayed slim my entire life. I was always the "skinny one". However as my thirties loom ever closer I have noticed that I am finding it harder to stay slim, no matter how much I exercise. The truth is that food is no longer the same as it was 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.

When it comes to food, the evolution of science is one area which is harming instead of helping us. Food scientists spend hours juggling levels of salt sugar and fat to reach the ultimate "bliss point" and to create the perfect "mouth feel". Food production is so much more than a product on a shelf.

Moss makes it pretty clear that these companies do not care about the consequences of these unhealthy foods. More than two-thirds of the sugar in an American's diet is now coming from processed food! Another worrying fact is that it's more expensive to pump clean water into a factory than it is to deliver salt.

We are only human beings and we only have a certain amount of will power. These companies have devoted millions of dollars to break through that will power. Frito-Lay invested $40,000 in a mechanical mouth that simulates chewing. They are using it to formulate the perfect breaking point and mouth feel of their chips/crisps.

Michael some up the whole situation perfectly in this quote:

"We are hooked on inexpensive food just like we're hooked on cheap energy"

I count myself lucky that here, in Ireland fast food is still relatively expensive. You won't get much change out of 10 euro for a meal. With that 10 Euro you could easily buy plenty of meat and veg to feed to a family in a supermarket. It doesn't seem to be that way in the U.S and the only viable solution would be to subsidise healthy food and tax food high in sugar and fat. That's not going to happen any time soon though.

A lot of people seemed p'eed off that this book provided no answer, solution or conclusion. I have taken the liberty of drafting an answer:

If it comes in a box or packet, don't eat it

If it has more than 3 ingredients, don't eat it
if you can pronounce an ingredient, don't eat it
If it proclaims to be low in salt, sugar or fat, don't eat it (it will replace one with the other)
If it says in bright bold letters that it's a source of vitamins, don't eat it

Good luck with that.

This was definitely the book of the year for me. If I could buy a copy for every single person in the English speaking world, I would. Everyone needs to read this.


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