Michael Pollan (MP): I remember my mother dutifully giving us all margarine instead of butter. She would say, “Some day they’re going to figure out that butter is actually better for you than margarine,” and we thought she was nuts. In fact, it turned out that margarine was lethal and butter is fine.
Alternet’s Terence McNally (TMN): She was still feeding it to you suspecting that would happen…?
MP: The authority of mothers was essentially destroyed by the food industry. The $32 billion a year in marketing muscle out there has undercut culture’s role in determining what we eat, and culture is a fancy word for your mom.
TMN: Just to emphasize that number, that’s not the food industry, that’s the food marketing industry.
MP: That’s advertising, studying us, packaging, figuring out how to get us to eat more.
TMN: Food industry folks say, “We don’t think we should regulate this sort of thing because Americans believe in individualism and free choice, but we’re all for public education.” So maybe we’ll throw $100 million of education up against that $32 billion of marketing.
MP: $100 million is one snack food’s annual budget. The entire USDA/FDA effort to educate people about food equals one chip. [laughs] There’s no contest. They control the information about food.