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[whitespace] 'Food Politics' Here's the Beef: Professor and author Marian Nestle details how food companies influence politics in her book 'Food Politics.'

Food Fright

'Food Politics'--not just a hot topic of controversy, it's an eye-opening new book

By Christina Waters

EVER WONDERED just how the giants of the American food industry apply pressure on consumers, the USDA, physicians, insurance companies, nutritionists and members of Congress? Take a step beyond Eric Schlosser's fact-laden Fast Food Nation and dive into the chilling pages of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, the revealing new book from NYU professor and nutrition czarina Marion Nestle.

All the things we always suspected, that food companies use big bucks to influence the political system, consumer be damned, are here in horrifying detail. Bending the facts, altering terminology, demanding sales-enhancing wording on even the once-hallowed USDA food pyramid (which was heavily manipulated by cattle and dairy lobbyists, according to Nestle's research)--all these tactics are painstakingly detailed in this riveting text that will have readers wondering whether they can trust anybody involved with the food industry.

Food Politics examines the concessions made by the FDA to huge corporations such as Kellogg, Kraft, ConAgra, General Mills--Nestle's treatise is as terrifying as anything by Stephen King. The book is a must-read for anyone enraged by the compromises that have exploited our children's health, all in the name of corporate greed. If this sounds like fiction, just remember three words: Enron, Enron, Enron.

The painful message here is that our health needs are getting in the way of corporate greed--and guess who wins? Nestle provides page after page of ammunition for consumer rage--one example illustrates in spades. Milk used to be the sole beverage offered in school cafeterias. But today, that natural source of calcium and protein has been elbowed out of school programs by sugar-enhanced juices and soft drinks. "From 1985 to 1997, school districts decreased the amounts of milk they bought by nearly 30 percent and increased their purchases of carbonated sodas by an impressive 1,100 percent," Nestle reveals.

Another little-known fact: the Pepsi company considers the 8-to-12-year-old American one of its prime marketing targets. According to Food Politics, PepsiCo spends over $1.3 billion annually in domestic advertising alone in the attempt to subvert children's eating habits. Lawyers for these companies should be drawn and quartered. Beyond scary, this is a tale of corporate terrorism on a very home-grown level. Food Politics will make you mad as hell. $30 from UC Press--find it at your favorite bookstore. And when you've finished it, lend it to a friend.

About Town

Wine Time: From Ahlgren to Zayante, 26 artisanal wineries dotting the coast mountains will open their doors this Saturday, April 20, from 11am to 5pm as part of the Spring Passport day brought to us, once again, by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association. Here's a chance to meet winemakers, tour tiny facilities rarely open to the public, increase our knowledge of our winegrowing region and its intriguing varietals and, of course, make purchases of our new favorites. Purchase a passport for $20 at any participating winery. For details call 831.479.WINE (9463) or visit the website at www.scmwa.com.

. . . And when you've finishing your tasting for the day, you would do well to have a reservation (call immediately) to join one of the area's top vintners, J. P. Pawloski of River Run, at historic Sand Rock Farm on Freedom Boulevard in Aptos (831.688.8005). For the wine dinner, executive chef Lynn Sheehan's five-course feast will feature dishes created to enhance the array of fine River Run wines being poured. Reserve in advance; dinner including paired wines is only $75 per person, exclusive of tax and service charge.

And wine lovers must reserve the date for the Sunday afternoon May 5 Grand Wine Tasting and Auction at the Stanford Faculty Club. Your $45 admission not only allows you to check out the exclusive interior where many Nobel laureates have sipped sherry while discussing string theory, but features wines from virtually every winery of the Santa Cruz Mountains, accompanied by fine hors d'oeuvres created by top area restaurants. Call the SCMWA at 831.479.WINE for details. ... Thursday, April 18, from 6 to 8pm, be at Holy Cross Hall for the Soupline Supper for Homeless Services Center; $15.

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From the April 17-24, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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