I was interested to read Salt, Sugar, Fat to find out more about processed foods and the way ingredients are used to create combinations that leave us craving more. With a section devoted to salt, sugar and fat separately, Moss covers the history of the use of these ingredient in processed foods, and how the major (mainly US-based) food manufacturers use them to cultivate dependency, heavy use and therefore large profits.
That salt, sugar and fat are bad for you is hardly going to be news for the majority of readers and indeed, Salt, Sugar, Fat contains lots of information that I've heard before, from lots of different sources. Some of the familiar facts included; fizzy drinks make you more hungry, cheese is chock-full of fat and too much salt can lead to heart conditions. A book like this always runs the risk of preaching to the choir but luckily Moss also includes information about newer research findings, such as the way sugar lights up the same pleasure centres in our brains as hard drugs, or that it can be so addictive that rats will willingly undergo electric shocks in order to get another slice of cheesecake. There is no 'stop signal' in our bodies when it comes to eating fatty foods, and it becomes invisible to consumers as soon as sugar is also added.
The most interesting part of the book for me was when Moss interviewed industry insiders and looked at the social implications of their product development and marketing. Poorer families and districts are deliberately and explicitly targeted. I teach in a socially deprived area of inner London and the majority of children in my class eat processed, fatty, fast foods every single day. According to Moss, this is a deliberate move, presumably as chaotic families lack the skills or budget needed to resist. At one point, Moss interviews a food executive who was in charge of opening up a new market in Brazil. As he tours the slums, the exec realises that whilst the children and families there need a lot of things, they don't need a can of Coke. The morality of such marketing campaigns deserves to be questioned.
Reading Salt, Sugar, Fat was fascinating, but it was all heavily US-based. I think the problem of processed foods is larger than that, it's a problem the whole Western world faces, so it would have been interesting to see some acknowledgement of this in the text. Apart from that, I found it engaging and well written, one I would definitely recommend.
You will enjoy Salt, Sugar, Fat if:
- You are interested in the politics of big corporations and their effect on society.
- You enjoy social history.
- You are interested in where your food comes from or in trying to eat healthily.
- You simply like well written, engaging non-fiction.
Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
First Published: 2013
Score: 3.5 out of 5