by Marion Nestle
Jun 14 2019

Weekend reading: Canned

Anna Zeide.  Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry.  University of California Press, 2018.

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This book uses the history of canned foods—beginning with condensed milk, peas, olives, tomatoes, and tuna, and ending up with BPA (bisphenol A, an endocrine disrupter)—to examine Americans’ changing relationship with industrially produced foods.

Canned foods have had their ups and downs in this country.  As Zeide explains, canning

means that people who have insecure housing without steady access to refrigeration, or who simply to not have the time or materials to prep fresh ingredients, can still eat relatively healthful meals.  Canned fruits, vegetables, and fish would be welcome additions to the food deserts of many low-income areas, which otherwise provide highly processed, sugary, and fatty foods with little nutritional quality.  Relatedly, the rejection of canned food—especially among members of a younger generation who hail from middle-and upper-class backgrounds—has implicit class biases.  Cans were once a symbol of modernity in the United States but now are seen as poverty food.  If we are to expect a fresher, perhaps healthier, way of eating to spread to all people, we must create economic and regulatory systems that make that possible (p. 192).

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