Salt Sugar Fat: Are You a Slave to Food Giants?

By Ted

salt-sugar-fat-moss

Salt Sugar Fat is a provocative new book by pulitzer prize winner Michael Moss.

He takes a investigative look at the multinational food giants and how they keep the western world fat by filling their food products with salt, sugar, and fat.

Even though many of us now understand how bad processed foods really are for our bodies, I for one, am shocked at some of the ways these food giants have managed to so addict most of the world to their psuedofood.

Food Giants Are Calculating and Insidious

Michael Moss argues that addictive processed foods didn’t happen by accident, but the food companies researched and developed foods for the correct blend of salt, sugar, and fat he calls “the bliss factor” in order to keep people coming back for more. Moss says:

Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year.

Michael Moss also exposes evidence that reveals how the food giants modeled their marketing plan after that of big tobacco’s. In a basic sense, this involves addicting people and then convincing them the product isn’t bad for them.

The Vicious Cycle

Now this has become a vicious cycle. People demand these foods and the food industry supplies the foods people crave in order to keep being profitable. Moss says that salt, sugar, and fat are cheap ingredients, which keep costs down and consumers still buying.

The food processing industry is more than a century old–if you count the invention of breakfast cereals–so it’s been steady growth. But things really took off in the 1950s with the promotion of convenience foods whose design and marketing was aimed at the increasing numbers of families with both parents working outside the home. The industry’s expansion, since then, has been entirely unrestrained. While food safety is heavily regulated, the government has been industry’s best friend and partner in encouraging Americans to become more dependent on processed foods.

Only a break in the demand will ever change things. People have to make a conscious choice to break their addiction to processed foods and quit buying them. This can only come through education, but unfortunately, many still aren’t listening.

Take Action

I really like books like Salt Sugar Fat because they help to lift the shroud of deception that so many Americans fall victim too. I myself was a victim until about 10 years ago, when I finally started to clean all the processed junk out of my diet.

So, share books and videos like this with your friends and family. If you’re a teacher, explore this topic with your students. Let’s get people talking, thinking, and acting. Consumers vote with their wallets, so let’s start turning the tide and demanding a cleaner food supply.

Salt, Sugar, Fat is available on Amazon here and at other major book retailers.

4 Comments

  1. Heather

    This is one of the most fascinating books I have read.

    I expected a manifesto, but it reads with much less bias. It reads like a history.
    You end up with a begrudging respect for what the industry has innovated and the cutthroat marketing. This doubles when you realize the consumer-choice advocacy language unassociated peope speak was first coined in marketing arms decades ago and fed into the culture.

    You end up a little timid and scared of it all, too. There is a massive amount of power and strength in these companies – psychological and biochemical research, government subsidies, sheer buying power, and how intwined it is with American life.

    I would recommend it to anybody. It is fascinating regardless of your beliefs. I preferred to avoid processed food before this book, but I still am not a fan of hypersensationalism whether I agree with it or not. This book does not succomb… It is at points unbelievable, but clearly true. The author is wonderfully balanced.

    Reply
  2. Tim Lee

    I’m glad that this article came out. It helps show that lots of time, money and smarts have been used to precisely engineer food that drives the reptilian side of our brain into a feeding frenzy.

    There’s evidence that this isn’t unique to humans. Domesticated and even wild animals are getting fatter if they have access to human processed food. (http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/29373/title/Animals-are-getting-fatter–too/)

    There are lots of people who will say that food addiction is a choice. As if it’s as simple as choosing to go left or right.

    They just don’t get it.

    There’s a ton of genetic, mental and circumstantial factors that control what we do. Open up a psychology or marketing book and you’ll see a ton of examples on how to subtly influence a human being with something as simple as a word change.

    So what are some possible solutions to the obesity epidemic?

    Government Regulation? Eh…Maybe. But given the ideology and power struggles plus the huge amount of food lobby money pumped into Washington, it’s hard to imagine any meaningful change.

    Education? Seems to work only a little. Every smoker, alcoholic, and overweight person knows what they’re doing is horrible. Yet they can’t stop.

    More exercise? Helps. Feels good too. However, there’s evidence to show that exercise plays a small roll in weight loss. Makes sense. Work out all day then eat a ton of junk? That ain’t gon’ work.

    Seems like there’s no easy solution.

    However, I believe that there is a way to tame the overeating habit and that’s through…

    Habit and Technology.

    We can train ourselves and eventually get into a healthy habit. Yeah, this is much easier said than done. And that’s where technology comes in. You see, people are notoriously bad at keeping track and predicting anything. What did I eat for lunch? Uh, no idea.

    However, through the use of technology we can better keep track of and even motivate ourselves to make better decisions. Our iPhone, Apps, Facebook, Twitter, and soon Google Glasses might be able to dramatically change how we eat.

    The future is an exciting time to live in.

    Reply
    • Dan

      I agree with much of what you say, but I strongly disagree with you about exercise. Studies which show very little weight loss from exercise are NOT of subjects who are exercising all day. Rather, at most they exercise about 1-3 hours a week. It really takes about 1-3 hours *a day,* *everyday,* for exercise to make a difference. There are absolutely no studies of weight loss at this amount of exercise. For years, I tried to lose weight by exercising perhaps 1-2 hours a week, and it didn’t work that well. Once I started to exercise everyday, I really lost more weight than I ever could by mostly dieting. My supervisor at work lost 200 pounds 15 years ago and she said she exercised between 2-3 hours everyday and was working two jobs. She didn’t have to restrict her diet that much, since she exercised. She has maintained her weight loss since then. Dieting without exercise requires a person to drastically reduce the number of calories that they consume everyday. This is not sustainable for most people and that is why most studies show weight regain for the 95-100% of dieters who don’t exercise in any kind of diet. On the other hand, according to the National Weight Control Registry, 90% of those who maintain a weight loss exercise at least an hour a day. Of course, I could never lose weight if I was consuming 9000 calories a day, no matter how I exercise. However, when I was losing my 95 pounds, I never had to consume fewer than 2000 calories to lose weight and lost weight consuming up to 3000 calories a day. If I didn’t exercise, I probably would have had to consume 1500 calories at most a day to lose the weight. YES, track one’s calories, but exercise gives a person more calories they can count and still lose and maintain their weight. I track my diet and exercise everyday and have maintained every single pound of my weight loss for almost 3 years consuming 3500 calories a day and have even lost a bit more.

      Reply
  3. Spectra

    Having worked in the processed food industry, I can attest to this. We used to get trade journals that had articles on how to improve palatability and increase the “child allure factor” by adding corn syrup to the formulations. Apparently, whenever you sweeten something–even if it’s savory–you make it more addictive in nature. It also had recipes for creating the “ultimate” umami–usually lots of MSG and other artificial flavors were added. I want to read this book–it sounds incredibly interesting.

    Reply