In his new book, "Salt Sugar Fat," New York Times reporter Michael Moss investigates the $1 trillion processed food industry. The average American eats 33 pounds of cheese and 70 pounds of sugar a year, and health experts say those trends triggered the obesity epidemic. Moss discusses how we became so dependent on processed food.
Here are excerpts from his Q&A with Time:
It’s pretty widely known that sugary cereals and Cheese Whiz are not good for you. What surprised you?
Moss: One of the things that really surprised me was how concerted and targeted the effort is by food companies to hit the magical formulation. Take sugar for example. The optimum amount of sugar in a product became known as the “bliss point.” Food inventors and scientists spend a huge amount of time formulating the perfect amount of sugar that will send us over the moon, and send products flying off the shelves.
When it came to fat, it was the amazing role of what the industry calls the “mouth feel.” That’s the warm, gooey taste of cheese, or the bite into a crisp fried chicken that you get. It rushes right to the same pleasure centers of the brain that sugar does, but fat is carrying twice as many calories, so it is more problematic from an obesity standpoint.
Salt ... is this miracle ingredient that solves all of their problems. There is the flavor burst to the salt itself, but it also serves as a preservative so foods can stay on the shelves for months.
After all your research, do you believe these foods can be considered “addictive?”
Moss: That is the one single word that the food industry hates: “addiction.” They much prefer words like “crave-ability” and “allure.” Some of the top scientists who are very knowledgeable about addiction in the country are very convinced that for some people, the most highly sugared, high fat foods are every bit as addictive as some narcotics.
Read more from Time.