The Politics of Fat: Food and Nutrition Policy in America

Laura S. Sims, Author
Laura S. Sims, Author M.E. Sharpe $87.95 (328p) ISBN 978-0-7656-0193-3
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
In the 1990s, Americans are more conscious than ever of the number of grams of dietary fat, the milligrams of cholesterol and the number of calories in the foods they eat. Such awareness has prompted consumers' demands that they be provided with a broader range of low-fat or no-fat food choices by retailers and producers. Yet, as Sims points out in her fascinating book, the awareness of the ill effects of overconsumption of dietary fats has resulted in only a slight decrease in the consumption of those fats. After defining dietary fat and discussing many of the reasons--group influences and genetic makeup, among others--that disposes humans to choose ""fatty"" foods over their low-fat counterparts, Sims, professor of nutrition at the University of Maryland at College Park, contends that public nutrition policy, agribusiness and private-interest groups have often created and encouraged the American public's schizophrenic attitude toward dietary fat in food. She drives her thesis through five case studies--federal school lunch policy, the regulatory approval of Olestra, the implementation of food labeling, the establishment of dietary guidelines and the politics of the food pyramid--to conclude that ""federally supported marketing order and pricing structures [promote] the sale of high-fat foods to consumers."" Sims closes by suggesting that a vital public nutrition policy for the 21st century must include the consolidation of federal nutrition agencies who work toward a common goal, as well as the vigilance of advocacy groups who are unafraid to challenge federal nutrition policy that misrepresents facts about health to the public. Sims offers a rich larder of food for thought. (June)
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