Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do About It

Algonquin. Jul. 2016. 336p. notes. index. ISBN 9781616204211. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616206529. COOKING
Federal regulatory agencies, specifically the FDA, take a hands-off approach to the content of foodstuffs available to American consumers, according to this expose by food writer Olmsted (Getting Into Guinness). This is particularly troubling because some food sourcing practices have significant public health implications. Olmsted focuses on items such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Champagne, Port wine, and Kobe beef; products of specific geographic areas subject to strict production practices, except in the United States, where their names may be used on ersatz similar products. A scary chapter on seafood and a litany of additional foodstuffs threatened by fakery (fruit juice, honey, and maple syrup) demonstrate that official disregard for geographic protections isn't the consumer's only problem. Olmsted offers helpful tips for identifying "real food" and avoiding the inauthentic when shopping and dining. Chapter sequencing is quirky, with two chapters on cheese and two on beef each separated by several other chapters. The focus on top-tier items makes the content of limited direct relevance to budget shoppers, but despite its highbrow assumptions, this is an important book to help all buyers shop prudently and with a wary eye toward the claims of food producers.
VERDICT Recommended for all consumers along with policymakers, those interested in food science, and marketing professionals.
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