404: Michael Moss, part 1: Salt, Sugar, Fat, Convenience, Addiction, and the Environment
Michael Moss had already risked his life as a reporter in Baghdad, where he interviewed Islamic militants and exposing that US marines lacked body armor. He had also already won a Pulitzer prize for reporting on food. Then he wrote Salt Sugar Fat, which has become one of the core books on the field of the food and doof industries. For me, the title has become one word, SaltSugarFat, to which I often add convenience, SaltSugarFatConvenience.
The book shows how the system evolved its incentives and motivations. They lead all players to create products and behavior that take advantage of our reward systems to induce craving, temporarily satisfy that craving while re-creating it, and continuing that loop.
The book pulls you along with detailed stories, often insiders where you can’t imagine how he learned the details. They combine to a greater story of our industrial food and doof system. The book was a number 1 NY Times bestseller and won awards including a James Beard award.
In our conversation, he shared some back story not in the book, and we spoke about the environment and his values. I don’t have to tell you how food touches everything in our lives. I see our beliefs and behavior toward food and doof as parallel to our beliefs and behavior toward the environment.
Michael’s book intrigues and fascinates at the sentence level. All the characters in the book rang true. Their stories were compelling. The results outraged me, but they also motivated me to keep away from their insidious work. Most of all it pointed to a playing field with incentives that motivate overproducing and getting people to eat more cheap products.
Each person is doing what he or she thinks is best. No one intends it, but they create obesity, disease, helplessness, addiction. Beyond those easily measurable results, it leads the people targeted, to protect their identities, to promote their lifestyles as if they were born that way, attacking people who disagree as if they were attacking accidents of birth, like racism or sexism.
But we aren’t helpless, however effective doof engineers have become at manipulating and controlling us. SaltSugarFat helps us prepare. You’ll also enjoy reading it.