Author Michael Moss Dishes About the Empowering Effects of 'Salt Sugar Fat'
If it's a boxed, canned or packaged product on a grocery store shelf, it's probably packed full of salt, sugar or fat—quite likely, all three. Michael Moss' 2013 book, "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us," is a glaring exposé on the food industry's use of these three ingredients and their effect on American health.
An Industry Exposed
Crunchy chips, cheesy skillet dinners, chocolaty cookies: America's grocery shelves are packed with these processed foods, and we love it. In fact, the average American consumes 70 pounds of sugar and 33 pounds of cheese each year. We're hooked on a steady diet of salt, sugar and fat.
Pulitzer Prize winner Moss delved deep into the food processing industry to uncover their closely-guarded secrets about how they have addicted Americans to their salty, sugary, fat-packed creations. Armed with food scientists who increase the allure of every bite and marketing strategies for reeling in life-long consumers, theirs has become a $1 trillion per year industry. The corporations have won big, but it has been at the expense of the nation's health.
Unfortunately, the industry has become so dependent on the use of salt, sugar and fat that reduction seems almost unfathomable.
“I went to Cargill too see why companies weren't cutting back,” Moss said.
He sat down for a buffet of salt-free processed foods, which he describes as “one of the most god-awful dining experiences... horrible without salt.” These ingredients have become necessities for the eating experiences Americans expect.
Changes in the Landscape
Now, in the two years since "Salt Sugar Fat" was released, there has been some change in America's food landscape. Pressured to produce healthier items, companies have released new products that tout better-for-you features. Although this sounds positive and could be a step in the right direction, what too often happens is that a reduction in one bad ingredient just means an increase in other unhealthy components.
Fortunately, change isn't entirely dependent on industry actions. Consumer attitudes are turning much more quickly than those of the food giants. Moss explains, “More and more people are caring about what they're putting into their bodies. There's an overall increasing realization that we've allowed ourselves to become mindless about eating.”
Thanks to greater awareness, consumers are learning to eat whole foods, shop the perimeter of the grocery store and pay attention to product labels.
Knowledge is Power
Moss' No. 1 New York Times Bestseller has been a key player in this awakening of American consumers. "Sugar Salt Fat" demonstrates through example after example that the food industry has played a major role in the decreasing health and increasing the weight of the nation. This doesn't abdicate us of our own choices to indulge, but being made painfully aware of the money-making goals and marketing schemes of the food giants helps us know how to make better choices.
Moss is heartened that his book is helping people change their eating habits. “A takeaway from the book is empowerment," he says. "Knowing all the tricks that the food giants are doing helps level the playing field. It helps you go into the grocery store, the restaurant and have more control.”
As readers are changing the way they eat, they are bettering their lives, and they thank Moss for the role his book has played. “Almost every day I get a tweet like that or an email,” he shares.
Whether you already limit processed foods or are looking for the push you need to get started, "Sugar Salt Fat"is an eye-opening read. If his book makes a difference in your eating habits, Moss would love to hear about it. Contact him on Twitter at @M_MossC.