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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Essential Reading: "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us" by Michael Moss.

If you shop at a grocery store, if you've ever consumed an entire bag of chips in one sitting, if you eat, then you must read Sugar Salt Fat:  How the Food Giants Hooked Us.  In it author Michael Moss explains how the huge profits in cheap processed foods drive the the aggressive development and sale of these manufactured items (I hate to call it 'food').  It is fascinating reading.

As consumers, we are certainly aware of how aggressively manufactured food is marketed.  Advertising for chips and snacks is ubiquitous.  However, Moss goes beyond marketing and looks at the tremendous amount of science that goes into creating processed food.  Frito-Lay, for example, at one point employed nearly five hundred chemists, psychologists and technicians working to perfect its chips, including a $40,000 devise that stimulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect chips.  These scientists are not working with remarkable ingredients, just salt, fat, sugar, and some starch and spices. What is notable is how the food scientists have constructed a chip, such as Cheetos, that can be eaten relentlessly.  Moss interviewed a food scientist who discussed Cheetos:
A key [attribute] is the puff's uncanny ability to melt in the mouth like chocolate.  "It's called vanishing caloric density," [Steven] Witherly [the food scientist] said. "If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there's no calories in it, and like popcorn, you can just keep eating it forever."
Vanishing caloric density.  A food the brain doesn't recognize as food.  Well, isn't that special.

Salt Sugar Fat is packed with this type of information that illuminates what is going on in the manufactured, processed food world.  This information is important because at the end of the day what is sold as food affects our health and wealth.  And even if you wouldn't dream of even walking down the snack food aisle of the grocery store, millions of other people do and what is sold there is impacting our communities and our nation.

On the fundamental human question of what to eat, this book provides invaluable information.


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