Salt, sugar and fat. How the food giants got us hooked.

Salt, sugar and fat. How the food giants hoocked us

Michael Moss

cover salt sugar fat

What you need to read to stay away from processed food.

This book is the compilation of the research on the food industry that led Michael Moss to win the Pulitzer Prize. It boils down to the fact that big business has hooked us on food: easy, available and cheap but junk food, which for example already accounts for three-quarters of the calories Americans eat.

Over the course of four hundred pages, the author unpacks the role of sugar, fat and salt. It is based on testimonies of former managers and scientists, on leaked documents and on a large number of publications. As it would be too long to tell you everything that interested me in the book, I have selected a few particularly striking examples to illustrate.

I am a chemist and I expected the worst from a deep analysis of the big food industry as this book does. However, it has made my hair stand on end precisely because of its objectivity and coldness; on several occasions it has seemed to me that we consumers are like Paulov's dog in modern experiments, such as the team of brilliant scientists working with brain scanners at Nestle Switzerland to determine the stimulation that certain processed foods produce in us.

Michael Moss avoids making value judgments at all times but this is a blog so I will. Nothing is what it seems anymore, not even PepsiCo's Tropicana peach and papaya juice, which had to change its labeling because it has neither peach nor papaya,... nor is it juice.

I was especially struck by salt, I could not imagine the properties of salt, it makes sugar taste sweeter, it makes food crispier, salt is also a preservative and above all it masks the unpleasant flavors of processed food, these are bitterness and insipidity.

As surprising to me was a secret memo in 1957, when convenience food was just taking off in the United States. It was written by an Austrian psychologist named Ernest Dichter for Lay's, the snack food company owned by PepsiCo. His aim was to overcome the seven fears and resistances to Lay's potato chips, these are: you can't stop eating them, they make you fat, they are not good for you, they are greasy and of poor quality, they are expensive, their side effects are unknown and they are bad for children.

The three points of this brilliant and malicious memo are:

1. Starting with the is bad for you, Dichter proposes not using the word fried and replacing it with toasted. An award-winning Lay's ad in 2010 still showed potatoes in the air in one photo.

2. To counteract the can't-stop-eating Dichter suggests packing the chips in smaller bags. Lay's snacks have been packaged in packets as small as 100 kcal for several years now.

3. To avoid the feeling that it is unhealthy food Dichter proposed to try to present Lay's potato chips next to classic foods and from there come customs such as putting chips with sandwiches, with soup or even with fruit juices.

I also couldn't imagine that in 2011 Campbell's soups were lowering the amount of salt and had not improved their bottom line for a year and their CEO went before investors saying he had a plan to boost sales. He indicated that they would raise the salt in their soups. They had lowered the sodium from 750 mg to 480 mg but would raise it back up to 650 mg, sodium reduction is important but we have to do other things such as taste.. On the same day, Campbell shares rose 1.3%.

The director of the National Center on Drugs of Abuse, Nora Volkow, has been finding parallels between food and narcotics for years, and is convinced that processed sugar causes convulsive ingestions in certain individuals.

Sometimes I think that the big food industry is going to die a victim of its greed because its modus operandi is to place a new product even if it loses money, generate an army of fans and then lower production costs which is how they make money, that is, first they get you hooked and then lower the quality in quality. This is the case of Lunchables a Kraft project that started out losing money, but the owners of Kraft, who are none other than Phillip. Morris; yes, the owners of Malboro cigarettes are the owners of Kraft and General Foods; the fact is that Malboro congratulated Kraft's Lunchables team even though they were losing money. because it's hard to put a product on the market, making money with it is always easier.


9 responses to "Salt, sugar and fat. How the food giants got us hooked.”

  1. I really liked this article Javier, after having lost 14Kg by controlling my diet and totally eliminating processed foods, wheat, sugar and salt from my daily diet, I can certify that most of today's foods, if we are not careful, are harmful to our health and make us totally dependent on them. Now knowing what I eat I am happier and I can lead a healthy life leaving behind all this POISON for our body that they put in our food. Best regards!

    1. You don't know how motivating it is to see someone who has gone through it. I'm on my way, or at least I'm going to try.

  2. [...] sugar and fat. How the food giants got us hooked. Javier Cuervo. I only found the book in English : Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked [...]

  3. Hello, how can I get the book in Spanish?

    1. Hi Timi,
      I am not aware that it has been translated.

      P.S. See comment below

  4. Very good article Javier, unfortunately we are in a time where human dignity is below economic interests.

  5. Alejandro Rodríguez Avatar
    Alejandro Rodriguez

    Congratulations, before this information was non-existent, now that it has come to public light it must be disseminated!

  6. I lost quite a few kilos by giving up sugar directly, of course, the sugar in all foods I can't, but I eat as healthy a diet as possible. PS: The book is already in 17 languages.

    1. Thanks for the information Marce

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