By Michael Pollan
The Penguin Press 2008, 246 pp., $21.95 (hardback)
This broadside attack on the current state of our food culture follows up Pollan's 2006 bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma (see our review in the March 2007 FM). This time, the bulk of Pollan's ire is directed at what he calls “nutritionism,” which he defines as a focus on nutrients rather than the foods that contain them.
Among other baleful consequences, Pollan contends that nutritionism plays into the hands of processed food makers, who happily manipulate their products to meet the food fad of the moment. This leads to one of his most iconoclastic pieces of advice: “avoid food products that make health claims.”
Probably Pollan's most controversial point is his contention that industrially farmed animals and crops are nutritionally deficient because chemical fertilizers and scientific animal feed lack many key micronutrients. That deficiency is then passed up the food chain until it reaches consumers, he alleges.
This is a highly controversial claim to say the least, and you can bet it will get a lot of attention in the coming months.
So, for those in the food business, this is an important book to know, if only to answer the inevitable questions it will prompt from customers.