We all know that Doritos are bad for us, but why do we love them so much? New York Times investigative reporter Michael Moss spent years investigating the billions of dollars spent by the food industry to scientifically engineer the most delicious and addictive snacks possible - and discovered how the food giants have turned such an enormous profit in the last half century.
When I asked Geoffrey Bible, former C.E.O. of Philip Morris, about this shift toward more salt, sugar and fat in meals for kids, he smiled and noted that even in its earliest incarnation, Lunchables was held up for criticism. "One article said something like, 'If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin.'"
Well, they did have a good bit of fat, I offered. "You bet," he said. "Plus cookies."
The prevailing attitude among the company's food managers -- through the 1990s, at least, before obesity became a more pressing concern -- was one of supply and demand. "People could point to these things and say, 'They've got too much sugar, they've got too much salt,' " Bible said. "Well, that's what the consumer wants, and we're not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That's what they want. If we give them less, they'll buy less, and the competitor will get our market. So you're sort of trapped." (Bible would later press Kraft to reconsider its reliance on salt, sugar and fat.)
Moss joins The Daily Circuit to discuss his new book, "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us."
Most of the food companies noted in Moss' book are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which posted a statement from President and CEO Pamela G. Bailey regarding the book:
Obesity is a serious problem in the United States and globally, and Michael Moss's work misrepresents the strong commitment America's food and beverage companies have to providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to achieve and maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle...
The root causes of obesity are well known. Too many calories consumed from any source, combined with a sedentary lifestyle are the main risk factors for obesity. As such, public policy proposals to ban, tax or restrict consumer access to certain foods or beverages will not solve the obesity problem.