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Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.

By Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle, Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at New York University, has been involved in the politics of food for many years. She was managing editor of The Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health, a member of the USDA/DHHS 1995 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and a member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee. She has been able to closely observe many of the factors that affect our nutrition recommendations and food choices. Dr. Nestle has written a thought-provoking book, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.

The central thesis of Food Politics is "diet is a political issue." Dr. Nestle supports this assertion by citing numerous examples, including the meat industry's opposition to the Food Guide Pyramid, the use of lobbyists to influence regulations related to foods, connections between food companies and nutrition research, and pressures to reword Dietary Guidelines (e.g., in 1977 the Dietary Guidelines said to decrease consumption of meat; in 2000 they said to choose 2 to 3 servings of lean meats).

Food Politics is not specifically a vegetarian book. However, vegetarians with an interest in the factors influencing food choices and nutrition regulations will learn a great deal from reading it. There are many sections that report on the role of the meat and dairy industries in the formulation of nutrition regulations. In addition, the book explores links among the food industry, the overabundance of food in the United States, and the epidemic of obesity in this country, something that affects all of us.

Professor Nestle concludes the book with an inspiring section on actions that can be taken to improve the social and political environment in which people make food choices. Recommended actions are both on the policy level and the level of personal choice.

Food Politics was a disturbing and an inspiring book for me. As Joan Dye Gussow (author of This Organic Life) says so well, "This remarkable book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand how it has come to be that the richest nation in the world is eating itself to death."

Food Politics (ISBN 0-520-22465-5) is published by University of California Press. It is 458 pages and retails for $29.95. Look for this book in your local bookstore or purchase it online. Reviewed by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD.
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Author:Mangels, Reed
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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