Food Lobbying and its Consequences

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My Department at New York University developed programs in Food Studies based on the premise that food is so central to the human condition that studying it is a great way to get into much larger social questions. I've just found a terrific example in the April 9 New York Review of Books (not yet posted) in which Michael Tomasky reviews So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Goverment, by Robert G. Kaiser. I immediately ordered a copy.

According to the review, the book chronicles events in the history of a Washington, DC lobbying firm, Schlossberg - Cassidy, run by former staff members of Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, chaired by George McGovern (Dem-SD). The firm parlayed its thorough knowledge of food assistance programs into a consulting practice devoted to helping corporations deal with pesky regulations and policies that affect agriculture, food, nutrition, and health. To give just one example: the firm's first academic client was Jean Mayer, the nutritionist president of Tufts University. He recruited the firm to get Congress to appropriate $27 million for a national nutrition center at Tufts. The result is the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

But this first earmark set a precedent that led to today's deeply corrupt system of rampant congressional earmarks, election campaign contributions, dependence on polls and focus groups, and climate of political partisanship.

A book about food lobbying and its larger political and social consequences! I can't wait to read it.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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