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Authors: Marion Nestle

Tags: #Cooking & Food, #food, #Nonfiction, #Politics

Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety

BOOK: Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety
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“Anyone who cares about what they put in their body ought to read
[Food Politics]
carefully and think long and hard about the choices. Your life just might depend on it.” —

“ ‘Voting with [our] forks’ for a healthier society, Nestle shows us, is within our power.” —
Los Angeles Times

“Educating the public is a start, and
Food Politics
is an excellent introduction to how decisions are made in Washington—and their effects on consumers. Let’s hope people take more notice of it than they do of the dietary guidelines.” —
The Nation

“Nestle has written a provocative and highly readable book arguing that America’s agribusiness lobby has stifled the government’s regulatory power, helped create a seasonless and regionless diet, and hampered the government’s ability to offer sound, scientific nutritional advice.” —
The Economist

“What a book this is! Of course we have always suspected and known some of the truth, but never in such bold detail! In this fascinating book we learn how powerful, intrusive, influential, and invasive big industry is and how alert we must constantly be to prevent it from influencing not only our personal choices, but those of our government agencies. Marion Nestle has presented us with a courageous and masterful exposé.” —Julia Child

“Food politics underlie all politics in the United States. There is no industry more important to Americans, more fundamentally linked to our well-being and the future well-being of our children. Nestle reveals how corporate control of the nation’s food system limits our choices and threatens our health. If you eat, you should read this book.” —Eric Schlosser, author of
Fast Food Nation

“Nestle is in a unique position to have seen firsthand how food purveyors, government and academicians end up as bedfellows when it comes to suggesting to people what and how much to eat.” —
Eating Well

“Food Politics
. . . has nudged [Nestle’s] argument into the mainstream of consideration—not quite fodder for an installment of
, but no longer the heady stuff of National Public Radio, either. And that has some restaurant-industry officials more than a little upset.” —
Restaurant Business

“Nestle tells us a series of engaging and surprising stories and gives us a lively presentation of the politics, as she perceives them, of advice on diet and health during the past century . . . This book is thought-provoking, and I recommend it.” —
The New England Journal of Medicine

“Some of Nestle’s shocking revelations about the behavior of Big Food will shock only those who are easily shocked; others will be welcomed less as news than as occasions for those so inclined to make public displays of moral outrage.” —
London Review of Books

Food Politics
is written to interest and be accessible to a wide range of readers, whether they have training in nutrition or not. The book has achieved this objective by keeping jargon to a minimum, explaining terms as needed, and being written in a lively, engaging style.” —
Journal of Nutrition Education

“A real page turner, this book will give you metaphoric indigestion—unless, of course, you believe that McDonald’s offers ‘a nutritious addition to a balanced diet’ (as one U.S. Senator declared in 1977).” —
Natural Health

“Regardless of who is to blame for the obesity epidemic, Nestle has laid down a challenge that won’t easily go away. It will be interesting to see how the food industry responds.” —
Food Chemical News

“The case examples are remarkable and the value here is in Nestle’s clear, thorough documentation, which provides missing pieces in the puzzle of poor nutrition in a country where food is all too abundant.” —
The Lancet

“This superbly documented book encourages readers to think about what they eat and to ask, who profits?” —Gambero Rosso

Food Politics
is an academically scrupulous account of how the food industry in the United States controls government nutrition policies. It’s important and eye-opening reading for anyone looking to make intelligent and informed food choices.” —
EarthSave Magazine

Food Politics
is a carefully considered, calmly stated, devastating criticism of the nation’s food industry and its efforts to get people to eat excessive amounts of unhealthy food.” —
Social Policy


Darra Goldstein, Editor


Updated and Expanded

University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit

University of California Press
Berkeley and Los Angeles, California

University of California Press, Ltd.
London, England

© 2003, 2010 by The Regents of the University of California

978-0-520-26606-3 (pbk. : alk. paper)

The Library of Congress has cataloged an earlier edition of this book as follows:

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Nestle, Marion.
    Safe food: bacteria, biotechnology, and bioterrorism / Marion Nestle.
        p.       cm.—(California studies in food and culture; 5)
    Includes bibliographical references and index.
978-0-520-23292-1 (cloth: alk. paper)
    1. Food—Safety measures.  2. Food—Biotechnology. 3. Bioterrorism. I. Title. 2. Series.

465 2003
363.19′26—dc21                                    2002027172

Manufactured in the United States of America

18   17   16   15   14   13   12   11   10   09
10   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2   1

This book is printed on Natures Book, which contains 50% post-consumer waste and meets the minimum requirements of
Z39.48–1992 (
1997) (
Permanence of Paper


Preface to the 2010 Edition

Preface to the First Edition


List of Abbreviations

Food Safety Is Political


1. The Politics of Foodborne Illness: Issues and Origins

2. Resisting Meat and Poultry Regulation, 1974–1994

3. Attempting Control of Food Pathogens, 1994–2002

4. Achieving Safe Food: Alternatives


5. Peddling Dreams: Promises versus Reality

6. Risks and Benefits: Who Decides?

7. The Politics of Government Oversight

8. The Politics of Consumer Concern: Distrust, Dread, and Outrage

Conclusion: The Future of Food Safety:
Public Health versus Bioterrorism


Appendix: The Science of Plant Biotechnology


List of Tables

List of Figures



appeared on the public agenda. American food safety advocates struggled to be heard but generated little public interest or congressional action. I wrote
Safe Food
to explain the political history of our fragmented and ineffective food safety system and how politics gets in the way of efforts to improve the system. Having no illusions that the book would do what Upton Sinclair’s
The Jungle
accomplished in 1906, I hoped that it would at least generate some creative thinking about food safety problems and their solutions.

I spent the next few years dealing with invitations to speak about the health implications of food marketing discussed in my earlier book,
Food Politics
. I also wrote
What to Eat
, a book that uses supermarket aisles as an organizing device for thinking about food issues, safety among them. By the time that book came out in 2006, I thought I was done with food safety. I had nothing more to say about it.

Then came September 14, 2006. On that day, one that California vegetable growers still refer to as 9/14, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the recall of spinach contaminated with
E. coli
O157:H7, the pathogen introduced in
chapter 1
and discussed throughout this book. This incident brought the inadequacies of our food safety system to public attention as never before and renewed calls for mandatory regulation. As always, these calls were ignored. The result was an astonishing series of national outbreaks and food recalls, one right after another.

To my surprise, I began to receive invitations to write and speak about
food safety issues. These came with further invitations to visit farms, packing plants, and food manufacturing and processing operations. I was appointed to the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which visited both large and small cattle, pig, and chicken farms. I also visited a free-range bison ranch. Following the pet food recalls of 2007, as part of the research for my account of those events,
Pet Food Politics
(2008), I visited factories that produce pet foods, raw and cooked. I had plenty of opportunity to see how food is produced under safe and unsafe conditions, and plenty to talk about.

In question sessions following my talks, I could hear how abstract the regulation of microbes in food feels to most people. Americans assume that the government keeps food free of contaminants and give food safety little thought. Instead, questions are about dread-and-outrage factors, topics covered in this book such as food biotechnology and irradiation, but also the right to consume raw milk, raw oysters, and other foods the government considers unsafe. Films such as
The Future of Food
Our Daily Bread
and, later,
Food, Inc
. and
, dealt with such matters and generated more questions along the same lines.

BOOK: Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety
8.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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