Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Let me be clear, I am not a healthy eater. I, like most Americans, have failed countless times against the power of processed foods. I know a salad would be best. I know soda is sugary poison. I know vegetables, whole grains, and less red meat are foundational to a healthy life. But again and again, I succumb to the addictive bliss delivered by Doritos, Coca-Cola, and Oreos (maybe not at the same time…maybe).

Food companies have figured it out. We love the taste of salt, sugar, and fat. The key though is to create a balance, you cannot simply just add more. Food companies employ thousands of scientists to create foods and improve the classics while shoring up the bottom line.

When I read about food companies battling for new customers by creating tastier food, I don’t initially object. It makes sense. The top mission of a company is to make money; this is capitalism in a nutshell. Why should I object to this? If a company makes an unhealthy or even downright dangerous product, won’t the consumer notice and change? It doesn’t make good business to kill your customers because that means fewer customers. Furthermore, if I decide to eat two dozen processed cookies along with a gallon of cola, that’s my choice and my problem. The food company didn’t force that on me.

But when I look at the big picture, I can definitely see the problems. My health has an impact on my family and society. Eating poorly for one day has little effect, but eating poorly for a lifetime has a devastating impact. This is a great example of how government regulation can help society. We cannot wait for the food companies to voluntarily make their food safer and healthier, because another company will swoop in a take their consumers. But if the government steps in and creates mandatory safety levels for dangerous items such as salt, sugar, and fat, it can help change society for the better.

Of course, it doesn’t solve all the problems. The government can demand my potato chips be less salty and in turn, I eat two bags instead of one. There is still a choice by me. Similarly, I can drive my car with my seat belt on and properly installed airbags and still hurt myself and others driving 100+ mph off a cliff.

This is an interesting book that challenged me on how to view my food intake and the big business of processed foods. Unfortunately, those Oreos still call me name…