“Food producers want to expand sales. Health claims sell.” – Marion Nestle
by Tiffani Patton
We are bombarded by news of a recently-discovered property of a single food—avocados to improve brain function, pomegranates to fight cancer, beer to ward off Alzheimer’s—and oftentimes these studies have one thing in common: the research was funded by the industry group that is selling the product. Marion Nestle’s latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat pulls back the veil on industry-funded food research: why it happens, its impact on public health, and what we can do about it. Large players in the food industry have taken pages straight from Big Pharma’s playbook when it comes to funding research: coordinating front groups, designing research studies, and working to limit any regulation that will stifle demand for their product (soda tax opponents, we are looking at you). All of this, and more skews how researchers conduct studies, how government associations pass regulations, and ultimately, how we perceive food.
This past Saturday, Marion Nestle and Tiffani Patton came together at CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco to discuss marketing masquerading as science, the premise of Unsavory Truth. The farmers market was in full swing despite the unhealthy levels of air pollution from the Butte County wildfire. The mostly-masked attendees were a part of the very first live recording (but hopefully not the last) of our monthly book club and podcast, Real Food Reads. Marion was also the very first Real Food Reads guest back in 2016 to discuss her book, Soda Politics. We at Real Food Media love decoding corporate spin and Marion Nestle is a great ally and resource for this type of work. To stay up to date on the world of food politics, make sure to check out her blog Food Politics.
We had a blast doing the live recording, and can’t wait for you to hear it! Special thanks to CUESA for partnering with us, Marion Nestle for joining us, and to all the attendees who braved the air to be a part of this important conversation.
Header photo by Brie Mazurek