Review of the book Formerly Known as Food: How the Industrial Food System Is Changing Our Minds, Bodies, and Culture by Kristin Lawless Rating **** 1/2
I try to eat healthy food. I read labels. I buy organic produce. But as much as I try to do the right thing, I still fall prey to marketing gimmicks. Take, for example, the marketing initiative behind cage-free eggs. Author Kristin Lawless tells how Walmart announced that it would only sell eggs from cage-free chickens beginning in 2025. The delay would allow current suppliers the opportunity to make the necessary changes. But unfortunately, while the term cage-free sounds more humane, the fact is that egg producers can still restrict chickens to tiny spaces in open-air barns. The author, however, doesn’t go on to suggest that you should look for eggs from organic pasture-raised chickens.
Author Kristin Lawless spends an entire chapter on how the term organic no longer represents the healthy alternative it once described. Organic sugar, for example, is still sugar. I’ll admit that my goto chip is Dorito’s organic white cheddar chips. I know they’re not good for me. But it does say organic on the package, and they taste great.
If processed food doesn’t kill you, then the chemicals leaking from the food’s packaging might do the trick. The author points out examples of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in paper cartons, canned foods, and plastic packaging. Then there are the harmful effects of the herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides that lace our food. The most ubiquitous of these dangerous chemicals is glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Though not mentioned in this book, a recent study of off-the-shelf beer found that almost nine out of ten brands they looked at tested positive for glyphosate. The combination of processed food and the chemicals that lace our food is a significant contributor to health problems that can start as early as in the womb.
My favorite chapter in the book is the very last chapter, A New Food Movement Manifesto, where the author provides suggestions for improving our current processed food dilemma. You more than likely have heard many of them, such as educating buyers, buying locally sourced food, eating whole foods, paying higher wages, and insisting on changes to the industrialization of our food. But she also offers ideas that, at first, seem unrealistic, such as placing warning labels on food, a universal basic income, and demanding six months to a year of paid parental leave. Those ideas may appear unattainable until you read about the many nations that have already implemented them and their positive results.