by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Books

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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May 24 2019

Weekend Spanish lesson: a book about obesity for teenagers

Simón Barquera.  ¿Hasta que los kilos nos alcancen? Una introducción desde la ciencia sobre el aumento de la obesidad y la forma de enfrentar esta epidemia [My and Google’s translation: Until the kilos reach us?  A scientific introduction to the increase in obesity and how to confront this epidemic]. Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica and SPM Ediciones, 2019 (119 pages, hard cover).

I did a blurb for this book (it’s in Spanish on the back cover):

I can’t think of a better target audience for a book about the social, economic, and political causes of obesity than the young people who will be tomorrow’s leaders and policymakers.  Simón Barquera gives them–and readers of any age—the skills to recognize how food and beverage companies promote corporate profits over public health, and to act on this knowledge through advocacy for regulating conflicts of interests.  These skills are essential for preventing obesity and creating healthier food systems.

I’ve wrote about Barquera’s work a couple of years ago; he is one of the Mexican soda-tax advocates who had spyware installed on his phone, and is a researcher at the public health institute in Cuernavaca where I went on a Fulbright in February 2017.

I hadn’t seen the book’s illustrations when I did the blurb.  If I had, it would have been hard to talk about anything else because they are beyond charming.  It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I especially like this one.

This book needs an English translation!  I hope someone is doing one.

If you want a copy, try this link.

May 17 2019

Weekend reading: Bee Wilson’s new book

Bee Wilson.  The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World.  Basic Books, 2019.

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I happily did a back-cover blurb for this one:

Bee Wilson’s deep dive into the causes and consequences of today’s unsustainable–but now worldwide–eating patterns is nothing less than a call to action.  We must change today’s Global Standard Diet to one that promotes planetary as well as our own health.

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May 10 2019

Weekend reading: a new book on food safety—Outbreak!

Timothy D.  Lytton.  Outbreak: Foodborne Illness and the Evolving Food Safety System.  University of Chicago Press, 2019.

Outbreak

I did a blurb for this one:

In Outbreak, Lytton gives us a legal scholar’s superb analysis of how government, lawyers, and civil society are struggling to prevent the tragic and unnecessary illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by microbial food contaminants.   Foodborne illness may seem like an intractable problem, but Lytton’s suggestions for dealing with it are well worth attention, as is everything else in this beautifully written, thoughtful, and readable account.  I couldn’t put it down.

Food safety attorney Bill Marler reviewed it for Food Safety News.

Lytton said his goal was to help readers understand the science, practicality, liability, enforcement and self-monitoring measures necessary to achieve higher levels of food safety. Meeting that goal includes helping readers understand the following:

  • Why government spends so much more money justifying food safety regulations than evaluating whether they actually work.
  • The need for greater experimentation in food safety regulation.
  • Improving private third-party food safety auditing through greater liability exposure for negligent auditing.
  • The potential for liability and recall insurance to improve food safety.
  • The history of third-party food safety auditing (which goes back much earlier than AIB in the 1920s).
  • The litigation dynamics of food safety lawsuits.

 

May 6 2019

On book tour this week—in Brazil!

To launch the Portuguese translation of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, I am going to Brazil.

I’ve posted details under Appearances.  Other details are here.

And here’s the overall schedule.

Press reports:

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May 3 2019

Weekend reading: Well—a great introduction to public health

Sandro Galea.  Well: What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About Health.  Oxford University Press, 2019.

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I blurbed this one:

A superb account of how money, power, politics, and the luck of the draw affect the health of individuals and populations. It should inspire us all to follow Galea in championing public health as an essential public good, and in treasuring and preserving the core values of public health—fairness, justice, and compassion for all.

Galea is the dean of the school of public health at Boston University and a prolific writer on public health topics, including food on occasion.  I am a big fan of his work.  I like his focus on social, economic, and environmental determinants of health and his consistent promotion of the core values of public health.  If you don’t really get what public health is about, this book is a great place to start.

Here is a brief sample from the chapter titled “Choice.”

We imagine our choices to be, for the most part, beyond the reach of outside influence and that, when we choose, we do so from an unlimited array of options; no one tells us what to eat, whether or not we are permitted to exercise, or who we must embrace as a life partner.  For this reason, much of our conversation about health has to do with “lifestyle”—making the correct choices for ourselves, choices which, we believe, will lead to better health.

…Yes, we can choose the food we eat, but our options are limited by what we can afford and by what kinds of food are available for purchase near our home.  These factors, in turn, depend on the quality of our neighborhood and the size of our income, which depends on larger socioeconomic forces over which we have little control.  Likewise, we can only choose to exercise if we live near parks, walkable streets, or athletic facilities, and we can only choose a person to marry from among the individuals we encounter within our community.  Place, power, money, politics, and people—all the forces we discuss in this book—shape the variables that ultimately influence our health.

Apr 26 2019

Weekend reading: two books about the effects of NAFTA

I was invited to review two books about NAFTA’s effects on foods systems for The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology:

  • Gerardo Otero’s The Neoliberal Diet: Healthy Profits, Unhealthy People
  • Alyshia Gálvez’s Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico (noted earlier on this site).

The journal titled the review “How neoliberalism ruins traditional diets and health.”  You can read it here.

Apr 5 2019

Weekend reading: Movable Markets

Helen Tangires.  Movable Markets: Food Wholesaling in the Twentieth-Century City.  Johns Hopkins Press, 2019

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Why did Paris destroy Les Halles?  Why did New York City move the Fulton Fish Market to the Bronx?  People who remember these places still mourn their loss. 

This book explains why such moves were inevitable.  They happened as a result of concerns about sanitation and crowding, the introduction of trucks, the need for parking, and the high cost of inner city real estate, and that’s just for starters.

I did a blurb for this one:

In investigating the social, economic, and political forces behind the removal of beloved city food markets—Les Halles in Paris, New York’s Washington Market, for example—to more efficient but far less colorful out-of-town locations, Helen Tangires has given us a refreshingly new take on the history of twentieth-century food systems.