Are Nutrition Labels Enough?

“Where does our food really come from?” It’s a question that has been asked time and time again, and yet most of the time, it’s difficult to find a proper answer. Perhaps the most common reason why the answer is so difficult to find is linked to the general inaccessibility of either qualitative or quantitative data from major food corporations. Of course, we read the labels on various items when we go grocery shopping, but do we know what exactly the fine print actually entails? This issue is particularly timely in light of COVID: whether it’s stocking up on snacks, grabbing ingredients for baking banana bread to pass the time, or even opening up DoorDash or UberEats to order some chow mein from your favourite Chinese restaurant, the way we eat has come to be a matter of necessity or ease, even more so than usual. So here, the general public is left in quite a quandary–how can we make sure that we have a better grasp of the behind-the-scenes happenings of companies in the food industry, or in simpler terms, how can we figure out why the food we eat is the food we eat?

Thankfully, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Michael Moss’ latest release, Hooked, deals with that very set of issues, in addition to carrying out an investigation into the multifaceted world of the food industry. In a surprising turn of events, Hooked illuminates a connection that most people do not realise exists–between our brain chemistry and the foods we eat! At face value, this notion may seem odd to consider, as we assume that the reason we like to eat certain kinds of food is simply due to taste or preferences. But, these tastes originate from somewhere, don’t they? Moss’ book is made up of many parts: how food manufacturers have used marketing techniques to transform junk food into diet foods without changing the recipe; how sugar has become the go-to secret ingredient in foods ranging from fast food to supposedly healthy ready-made dinners; and ultimately, how these practices have gradually made humans dependent on a limited number of foods to survive to the extent that we are made to believe that we need them.

These insights may seem like something out of a dystopian novel, but then again, did any of us believe this time last year that the pandemic would last a year? Perhaps facing the ugly truth about how food manufacturers have intentionally facilitated a growing addiction right now will help us to prevent something truly unthinkable from happening in March 2022. Because that is the key takeaway from Hooked: Moss’ thorough and concise writing style has made these giant factoids and bombshells much more digestible, and so when he speaks of methods and efforts to help us humans wrestle influence away from the food industry and into our own hands, it feels plausible, and not a far-off reality. Scary as it may seem, it’s sort of like trying out a new dish for the first time–it may take some time to adjust, but we will hopefully end up learning more about ourselves than we expected.

Click here to register for free now to receive the event link for Incite: Hooked with Michael Moss on Wednesday, March 31 at 7pm PT.


Aditya Bhagirath