Author finds Americans eating healthier -- despite higher food prices
A new book looks at America's packaged and industrial food world and just what makes processed food so tempting to us. But, according to the book's author, even despite the accessibility of processed foods, more Americans today are changing their eating habits to be healthier.
At a growing rate of five percent per year, Americans are choosing to eat healthier far more than they were a decade ago.
But still, in the $630 billion food market, only $26 billion goes to organic food. Processed foods remain the undisputed king of accessibility.
Michael Moss, an investigative reporter for The New York Times and author of "Salt Sugar Fat," recounts the story of Jeffrey Dunn, then president of Coca-Cola North America, in 2000 quitting his job after 20 years with the company.
Dunn was one of the top sellers at Coca-Cola by marketing the company's products to younger consumers. But after he left, Dunn began using his food marketing experience to market fresh carrots as junk food — to sell more fruits and vegetables, Moss said.
"(Dunn)'s trying to level the playing field in the grocery store for us and I think that's a really brilliant thing that could totally change the direction of eating," he said.
In his book, Moss says, oftentimes the people working in these processed food companies have very little in common with middle-income consumers of their products. And a number of executives from these companies don't consume their own company's products.
"They know better, because salt, sugar and fat, the three pillars, the holy grail of the processed food industry, they know that their scientists are driving as hard as they can to reach those perfect amounts that'll send us over the moon," he said. "Even when we want to go the fresh veggies and fruit aisle, we're pulled to the center of the grocery store where the most loaded products are."
Part of the problem with processed foods is how convenient and low priced they are, Moss said.
"(These companies) make a convincing argument that they never intended to make America obese or otherwise ill, that they consider nutrition to be one of their fundamentals with convenience and price. But when you get inside and you listen to these scientists and you look at their internal memos, they're driving a taste and — it's salt, sugar, and fat," he said.
The White House is looking to level the playing field by lowering prices so it doesn't cost more to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and less-processed meats, Moss said.
And organic food prices are decreasing because the market is growing. But in order for them to be equal to processed foods, Moss says, there needs to be more funding for fresh and healthier foods.
"Americans are really starting to care more and more about what they're putting into their bodies, and coming with all kinds strategies for dealing with that. And I think the processed food industry is feeling the pressure like never before," he said.
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