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Is your child addicted to crisps? The food industry hopes so. Michael Moss in The Times

Is your child addicted to crisps? The food industry hopes so. Michael Moss in The Times

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Published by rob yorke
'Executives at the big food companies, Moss claims, tend not to eat their own food'
They know what our brains want and we don't resist. Try eating Kellogg 'Cheez-It' crisps without salt...

Note - the article is obviously open to discussion due to no input from the food industry!

Uploaded by Rob Yorke @blackgull

'Executives at the big food companies, Moss claims, tend not to eat their own food'
They know what our brains want and we don't resist. Try eating Kellogg 'Cheez-It' crisps without salt...

Note - the article is obviously open to discussion due to no input from the food industry!

Uploaded by Rob Yorke @blackgull

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Published by: rob yorke on Feb 27, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Is your child addicted to crisps? The food industry hopes so
Stefanie Marsh
Last updated at 12:01AM, February 26 2013Michael Moss won a Pulitzer for his exposé of meat contamination. But processed foods are as scandalousFor the best part of the past four years, Michael Moss has been investigating the science of junk food. He hastalked to numerous executives and scientists at Pepsi and Kraft, at Unilever and Mars and Kellogg, andwritten a book about processed food that is likely to make you, the consumer, feel nauseous.“Do you think what you’ve found out about the food industry has made you paranoid about what you eat?” Iask him — in Moss’s fridge at home in New York, are five cans of beer (Czech), two bottles of maple syrup(bought at a farm in Massachusetts), a pot of hoummos, a jar each of peanut butter and jam (low sugar,additive free), a jug of filtered water, a pack of multigrain pancake mix and a box of organic, free-range,hormone-free eggs. His freezer contains veggieburgers and wholemeal rolls.He says he’s not sure about his own paranoia levels, but speculates that it might have affected his wife.Lately, she has turned into the kind of person who asks waiters in restaurants where they source their meat.The effect on Moss’s two children is apparent. When the family goes to the supermarket these days, the kidsare encouraged “to be part of the hunt”. A typical challenge: to find a box of cereal with less than 5g of sugar.It is pleasing to find out that a nutritionally impeccable person such as Moss has a weakness — crisps. “The potato chip,” he found out in the course of his research, “is the single largest contributor to weight gain inAmerica.” If you are old enough to remember how crisps used to taste, look and feel when you ate them back in the 1980s and have ever wondered why they’re so much more irresistible now, Moss can tell you inintricate detail. When you put a crisp in your mouth, he explains: “The salt hits you almost immediately. It’san effect that the salt industry calls ‘the flavour burst’. Potato chips are also soaked with fat — ‘mouth feel’,in industry parlance: this is the wonderful warm sensation you get when you bite into gooey cheese or friedchicken. Fat has twice the calories of sugar. And there is a load of sugar in the starch.”Though fat, sugar and salt combine to make an irresistible fast-food combination, the zinger where crispinnovation is concerned is the noise they make when you eat them. “There is a researcher in London whoactually won a science prize for discovering that the more noise a crisp makes when you bite into it, the moreyou will like it.”
The big food suppliers, he says, are dictating what consumers buy while manipulating them with deceptiveadvertising and packaging. “What I also found most alarming when I was researching the book was theextent to which these companies use scientists to perfect their formulations and find perfect amounts of salt,sugar, fat to create products that are irresistible.” Unilever, for instance, “developed a team that used brainimaging and other advanced neurological tools to study the sensory powers of food, including fat”.Meanwhile, ingredients such as sugar are being technically altered: its sweetest component, fructose, has been crystallised into an additive. Scientists have also created enhancers that amplify the sweetness of sugar to 200 times its natural strength. As for salt: “We’re not born liking salt. It doesn’t happen until we’re aboutsix months and it is looking like the processed food industry is controlling our craving for salt. Studies showthat children who are fed processed food from a very young age develop huge salt cravings. The food giantsare not just accountable for the situation but, in this case, also accountable for having caused it.”At Cargill, the world’s leading supplier of salt, scientists are developing ways to change the physical shape of salt, pulverising it to a fine powder so that it hits your palate faster and harder. Somehow Moss persuadedKellogg to make him a saltless version of its mega-selling crisps Cheez-It. “They felt like straw, chewed likecardboard.” He concludes: “Take more than a little salt, or sugar, or fat out of processed food, theseexperiments showed, and there is nothing left. Or, worse, what is left are the inexorable consequences of food processing, repulsive tastes that are bitter, metallic and astringent.”Some readers might find another revelation more telling and troubling: executives at the big food companies,Moss claims, tend not to eat their own food. “I was really surprised to meet company official to companyofficial that doesn’t eat their own product,” he says, “especially if they ran into health problems.” He talksabout the senior executive who stopped eating most of the company’s own products after he sustained a kneeinjury and started putting on weight. “It showed me there is a socio-economic factor going on here. Themarketers of these foods are at an economic level where they can afford personal trainers and expensivewholefoods and they’re out of touch with the health implications of the food that the rest of us are eating because they’re not eating them.”Packaging is another bugbear of Moss’s. “The moment you walk in to the grocery store everything is tilted inthe favour of the food giants — from the placing of the food to the pricing to the incredible marketing andadvertising on the front of the packages to the deceptive practices in the fine print on the packages. It’s allstacked against you.” I ask him for some supermarket tips. “The first thing you want to do is look at the frontof the label. And if you see things that say ‘low fat’, ‘fruity’, ‘low sugar’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘all natural’ thatshould be a huge warning. You should look really closely at the nutrient label because so often thesecompanies will lower one of the unholy trinity of salt, sugar, fat and raise the other two up. Look at low fatyoghurt — laden with more sugar than ice cream.” Moss says beware the breakfast bar. “If you read the fine print they often have as much sugar, fat, salt as cookies, if not more.”
Reared on healthy foods, Moss’s 13 year old is apparently “hooked” on hoummos sandwiches. This is incontrast to many children his age who could be said to be addicted to fatty, sugary, salty fast food. “The foodindustry prefers not to speak of ‘addiction’ or ‘addictive’,” Moss says — “crave-able” is the acceptable term.How surreal then, that at Coke’s headquarters in Atlanta the most loyal customers are referred to as “heavyusers”. When he spoke to Nora Volkow, a research psychiatrist, scientist and director of the National Instituteon Drug Abuse, she told Moss: “Clearly, processed sugar in certain individuals can produce compulsive patterns of intake. And in those situations I would recommend they just stay away. Don’t try to limit yourself to two Oreo cookies because if the reward is very potent, no matter how good your intentions, you are notgoing to be able to control them — which is the same message we have for people addicted to drugs.”Does he think that companies have a moral obligation to look after the wellbeing of their customers? Will the parallels that some people are drawing between the tobacco and food industries mean that he thinks the bigfood companies will be held responsible, legally or otherwise, for the obesity crisis? “I think it’s been wrongof anyone to expect these companies to do anything on moral or ethical grounds. It’s just anti-capitalism.”Perhaps it’s the other way around. Perhaps consumers get the food industry we deserve?Two weeks after the horsemeat scandal broke in the UK, polls indicated that more than half of the publicwere not prepared to pay more for their (processed) food. Moss counters that most people don’t have the timeto intensively research the ingredients labels and claims of the food they eat. “These companies know whatthey are doing. They have been aware of the obesity crisis for years and years. They had the resources, thescientists, the technicians to do better by the consumers but they are not using these resources.” As a positiveexample, he namechecks the US chain Costco. “They limit their purchases to just a couple of suppliers — there is no way they would accidentally be using horsemeat. They also do testing on the meat that comes intotheir factory: if there’s any problem with their sourcing, you’ll get a letter about it, before the Governmentgets a letter. These companies can do better if they want to.”Governments also need to pull their weight: “I was stunned by the extent that the department of agriculture joins forces with both the dairy and the meat industry to push increased consumption of cheese and red meatat the same time that the agriculture department’s own nutritionists are encouraging people to eat less.” Hesays governments turn a blind eye to false advertising: “You can call chickens and eggs ‘free-range’ even if they’re allowed to walk out five minutes in the day and go scrabble in the parking lot. That is an example of how the agriculture department fails to monitor advertising slogans. It is a travesty. I think it’s probably thesame in the UK.”Food scandals are becoming more frequent, he says: “What’s really disconcerting is that you see this not justin meat but in vegetable and in innocent sounding things like peanuts which had a salmonella scandal in theUS a few years ago. The chain of ingredients in processed foods has become so disparate and global that thecompanies themselves have lost control over the sourcing of their ingredients. And if they can’t control it,certainly we can’t control it. There are so many middlemen.” He was delighted when, last week, officials

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