Politicians are a Food Producers BFF

One of the glaring issues taken on by Michael Pollans book In Defense of Food is the problem of nutritionism or “a reductionist way of thinking about food.” In the United States we have become so caught up with what nutrients are in food that we are no longer paying attention to what food we are actually eating. This is significant because the nutrition labels we are exposed to are often too complex by design, so us consumers don’t actually know what is going into our bodies. We are concerned with the number of  trans fats, cholesterols, and carbohydrates yet a vast majority of consumers don’t know what these complex compounds consist of or their functions. I think the concern over nutrition labels has almost everything to do with politics and money rather than actually providing consumers with information. The more food producers can market food as ‘healthier with less calories’ and the more the population believes that calories are bad, than the more money food producers make. According to Fisman and Golden’s book Corruption: What Everyone Needs to Know, business owners (food producers) can help corrupt politicians get reelected by providing campaign funding or other forms of bribery for the politician. In return, politicians help pass laws that market their products as ‘healthier’ according to the publics beliefs about the information on a nutrition label. Therefore, food producers and politicians are in a mutually beneficial relationship where they both reap the benefits by abusing the system. As Michael Pollan pointed out, this is what happened in the 1970s with George McGovern and the cattle industry. Studies performed in the 1950s concluded that eating meat and dairy was not heathy and led to heart disease, however since McGovern was a politician with ties to the cattle industry he was able to spin the dialogue making it incomprehensive to the average citizen. As a result, the average consumer was exposed to the message “decrease consumption of animal fat, and choose meats, poultry and fish which will reduce saturated fat intake.” Which lead people to believe that eating meat and dairy was not the actual problem but they should simply avoid saturated fats. This information was purposely misleading the public so it did not hurt the cattle industry. I found this relationship between politics and consumerism very alarming. Although there is already distrust towards major food producers I feel like the American public fails to see that politicians often play a much larger role in what information gets marketed as ‘better’ or ‘healthier’ for us, and if this is the case then who can we trust to keep us healthy?


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