cover image The Rubbish on Our Plates

The Rubbish on Our Plates

Rudolf Steiner, Gerard Pouradier, Fabien Perucca. Prion, $15.99 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-85375-223-0

The authors, French investigative journalists, here examine agriculture and its products as they come to our tables. Perucca and Pouradier begin with stomach-turning scenes from China, in particular the preparation of hot dogs (which does not mean frankfurters there) and hogs' diet, which includes human excrement. They turn next to the West, particularly their native land. There, as almost everywhere else in Europe and the U.S., the acceptable daily intake (ADI) is exceeded for many metals, such as lead, cadmium and aluminum; the insecticide parathion; fungicides, for example, PCP and liquid nitrogen; and, above all, additives-colorings, thickeners and acidifiers. Especially revealing is the chapter on extrusion cooking, which explains how a ""meatball"" may be made of no more than 13 percent protein, and that consisting entirely of chicken or fish. Even French viticulture gets its lumps, because overproduction has reduced the quality of the country's wines sharply, in the authors' view. Readers may marvel that they are still alive after they finish this startling expose in a translation that is breezy and slangy. (Feb.)