Book Report: Food Politics

Reviews of books relevant to the food movement.

Marion Nestle's Food Politics Book

One sentence summary of this book: Before it was popular, Marion Nestle wrote an in-depth review of how food companies influence politics to help their bottom line and shape what we eat.

Book Title: Food Politics
Author: Marion Nestle
Publication Date: Originally 2002, Revised and expanded 2013.
Keywords: nutrition, government, agribusiness, politics

Key points:

  • Large food corporations spend massive millions of dollars to ensure outcomes to their benefit.
  • Government officials and food lobbyists work together closely and often swap professional roles over time.
  • The government’s food recommendations originally looked quite different when drafted, but food associations, companies, and lobbyists pushed for changes to publicized versions over many years.

Critical reception: Heavily reviewed when it first came out in 2002, mostly positive.

My opinion: If you’ve ever been frustrated with how large corporations use money and influence to change government policies, get ready to be pushed over the edge. Marion Nestle describes in exhaustive detail the role of food companies and food associations in the history of the food pyramid, the fights over nutritional supplements, and sodas in schools. She’s a powerhouse in this area and has been involved for multiple decades as a nutritionist, academic, and advisor. Her Food Politics blog is a must-read and her posts on industry-sponsored research studies that continually support the sponsors’ products is both hilarious and troubling.
Reading Food Politics today, it feels dated. The afterward for the revised edition attempts to sum up the major milestones from 2002-2012, but a lot happened in 10 years, so it doesn’t quite work. This tome focuses on key players from when it was written, and 13 years later the people are different.

Mid-read.

Mid-read.

Should you read it?: Unless you love the nitty-gritty of politics, read some of Nestle’s shorter and more recent videos and articles (view her publications here) on this same topic instead. You’ll still get the main points and won’t have to slog through hundreds of pages of extremely specific political incidents from the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s.

Happy reading!