I’m going to get what I didn’t like about Marion Nestle‘s book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat out of the way first: the seemingly endless number of astroturfed, captured and blatantly biased organizations with objective sounding names whose primary purpose is to make sure agribusiness and food processing corporations can continue seeking maximum profit without regard for public health, worker safety and the environment. Dr. Nestle provides so many examples of this that I began skimming as soon as I saw words like “Board” & “Council” and “Association.” The second thing I didn’t like was that the author limited her suggestions to reforms within neoliberal capitalism, where educational institutions, governments and publishing media are basically for sale to oligarchs.
So who are the audiences who should read this?
The first and most important is everybody who purchases processed food from groceries. Without denying the importance of nutrition to health, Dr. Nestle shows why nearly everything we think we know about which products are nutritious, whether it be on labels of packages or in peer-reviewed scientific journals, is the result of marketing. The primary purpose of the claims and efforts to substantiate them is to get you to buy more of a particular product.
The second audience for this book should be everybody involved in science publishing, from the local paper’s science journalist covering press releases from local universities to editors and peer-reviewers involved in selecting and editing articles.
Here are some tidbits:
Government agencies ought to be funding basic research in general and nutrition, food, and agriculture research in particular. We need to know how best to feed the world’s growing population, sustainably and in ways that promote the health of people and the planet. Food companies’ priorities preclude their investment in such questions except when research might lead to product development and increased sales.