Reviews for Pandora's Lunchbox : How Processed Food Took over the American Meal


Choice Reviews 2013 November
Pandora's Lunchbox addresses the history, personalities, motivations, techniques, and problems associated with the development of processed food, that type of sustenance that George Orwell might have referred to as "unfood." Processed food is housed mainly in the center aisles of supermarkets and materializes in such delicacies as Go-Gurt, Sno Balls, and American processed cheese product. Business journalist Warner introduces the pioneers in the processed food movement, including J. L. Kraft and John Harvey Kellogg, and provides a primer on various food processing techniques, from gun puffing to extrusion. She argues that the main motivations for introducing processed food into the American diet were the profitability of food manufacturers and the convenience demanded by the American housewife as she made the transition into the work force. The book also discusses additives, including flavor extracts, enzymes, and vitamins. The chapter on vitamins sends the especially disturbing message that it is not easy to "put Humpty Dumpty together again" since processing reintroduces these constituents of whole food as synthetic isolates, which may have harmful health effects. The book is informative, fluent, engaging, and well researched. A good companion volume, particularly to the chapters on additives, is Bee Wilson's excellent history of food fraud, Swindled (CH, Apr'09, 46-4407). Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. D. M. Gilbert formerly, Maine Maritime Academy Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
The story of what happens to processed foods before they reach our plate. What is lost from, or added to, factory-produced food in the quest for uniformity, flavor, cohesiveness, moistness and the ability to withstand temperature extremes? To answer this question, journalist Warner examined Kraft prepared-cheese product, Subway's sandwich bread, breakfast cereals, soybean oil, chicken tenders and other foods. The author clearly explains the procedures and chemicals used to keep mass-produced food consistent and unspoiled, and she identifies the paradox of the food-processing industry: "that nutrition and convenience are sometimes deeply at odds with one another." The problem, she writes, with the "wholesale remaking of the American meal is that our human biology is ill-equipped to handle it." Our bodies metabolize food much as they did in the Stone Age, long before the plethora of new ingredients that make meal preparation easier. While we assume the FDA regulates the estimated 5,000 food additives used in processed foods, the food industry is innovating so fast, it is hard to keep up. Warner outlines the loopholes and gaps in a regulatory system in which only several hundred additives are researched and controlled. Americans also now get more synthetic nutrients in their diets than naturally occurring ones. These vitamins may not be as beneficial since they lack the suite of natural compounds found in whole foods. Warner includes chapters on soy and the changing world of fats, meat extenders, flavorings, and early pioneers in food testing and regulation. Some of the chapters meander a bit--e.g., an excellent chapter on regulating food additives ventures off into enzyme use in baking. Warner's take-home message is to seek out the least-processed of the processed foods. A well-researched, nonpreachy, worthwhile read. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #3

Warner takes readers on an investigative journey into the history, current practices, and future trends concerning food processing and additives. We meet characters like Harvey Wiley, the "founder of modern food regulation," whose legal briefs helped ban dangerous additives like borax and formaldehyde in the United States, and James Lewis Kraft, whose 1914 processing technique created cheese that could be "kept indefinitely without spoiling." She covers the history of soy, from its early uses as fertilizer and livestock feed to the development of soybean oil for frying food, this despite containing toxic aldehydes that have been linked to serious medical conditions. Warner visits a soy protein plant, describing the processes through which we get our faux meats, before we reach her own refrigerator where she discovers her supermarket guacamole contains amigum--a gelling agent used in cosmetics--which a food scientist theorized was made with an avocado facial mask recipe. Other topics include the origins and effects of synthesized vitamins, shortcomings of the FDA, the manufacturing of artificial flavors, and new innovations in "healthy processed foods." Warner's thought-provoking study does an excellent job presenting the facts without sensationalizing, and offering common sense solutions to those seeking to make better food choices. (Feb.)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Warner takes readers on an investigative journey into the history, current practices, and future trends concerning food processing and additives. We meet characters like Harvey Wiley, the "founder of modern food regulation," whose legal briefs helped ban dangerous additives like borax and formaldehyde in the United States, and James Lewis Kraft, whose 1914 processing technique created cheese that could be "kept indefinitely without spoiling." She covers the history of soy, from its early uses as fertilizer and livestock feed to the development of soybean oil for frying food, this despite containing toxic aldehydes that have been linked to serious medical conditions. Warner visits a soy protein plant, describing the processes through which we get our faux meats, before we reach her own refrigerator where she discovers her supermarket guacamole contains amigum--a gelling agent used in cosmetics--which a food scientist theorized was made with an avocado facial mask recipe. Other topics include the origins and effects of synthesized vitamins, shortcomings of the FDA, the manufacturing of artificial flavors, and new innovations in "healthy processed foods." Warner's thought-provoking study does an excellent job presenting the facts without sensationalizing, and offering common sense solutions to those seeking to make better food choices. (Feb.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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