Friday, February 22, 2013

Michael Moss in The New York Times: "(Salt + Fat 2 / Satisfying Crunch) x Pleasing Mouth Feel = A Food Designed to Addict"

The articles and links offered in The Delicious Truth are, of course, optional. However, today I am issuing the first mandatory reading assignment in this blog's history. The piece to be read is "(Salt + Fat 2 / Satisfying Crunch) x Pleasing Mouth Feel = A Food Designed to Addict," the cover story in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

It's written by Michael Moss, an investigative reporter for the paper who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for several articles he wrote about the meat industry, and adapted from his book, "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us," which is to be released next Tuesday.

The article (aka online as "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food") covers a lot of ground, but it clearly exposes the lengths that the junk food companies will go to earn a buck. Here's one anecdote, focusing on Jeffrey Dunn, who, a decade ago, was running Coca-Cola's business in North and South America.

"In his capacity, Dunn was making frequent trips to Brazil, where the company had recently begun a push to increase consumption of Coke among the many Brazilians living in favelas. The company’s strategy was to repackage Coke into smaller, more affordable 6.7-ounce bottles, just 20 cents each. Coke was not alone in seeing Brazil as a potential boon; NestlĂ© began deploying battalions of women to travel poor neighborhoods, hawking American-style processed foods door to door. But Coke was Dunn’s concern, and on one trip, as he walked through one of the impoverished areas, he had an epiphany. 'A voice in my head says, ‘These people need a lot of things, but they don’t need a Coke.’ I almost threw up.'
"Dunn returned to Atlanta, determined to make some changes. He didn’t want to abandon the soda business, but he did want to try to steer the company into a more healthful mode, and one of the things he pushed for was to stop marketing Coke in public schools. The independent companies that bottled Coke viewed his plans as reactionary. A director of one bottler wrote a letter to Coke’s chief executive and board asking for Dunn’s head. 'He said what I had done was the worst thing he had seen in 50 years in the business,' Dunn said. 'Just to placate these crazy leftist school districts who were trying to keep people from having their Coke. He said I was an embarrassment to the company, and I should be fired.' In February 2004, he was.

"Dunn told me that talking about Coke’s business today was by no means easy and, because he continues to work in the food business, not without risk. 'You really don’t want them mad at you,' he said. 'And I don’t mean that, like, I’m going to end up at the bottom of the bay. But they don’t have a sense of humor when it comes to this stuff. They’re a very, very aggressive company.'” 
Click here to read the entire article. It's long, but it's worth the time. And you've got the whole weekend to read it. Quiz on Monday.

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