An “entertaining and enlightening” history of the scares, scams, and pseudoscience that have made food a source of anxiety in America (The Boston Globe).
Are eggs the perfect protein, or cholesterol bombs? Is red wine good for my heart, or bad for my liver? Will pesticides and processed foods kill me? In this book, food historian Harvey Levenstein encourages us to take a deep breath, and reveals the people and vested interests who have created and exploited so many worries surrounding the subject of what we eat.
He tells of the prominent scientists who first warned about deadly germs and poisons, and those who charged that processing foods robs them of life-giving vitamins and minerals. These include Nobel laureate Eli Metchnikoff, who advised that yogurt would enable people to live to 140, and Elmer McCollum, the “discoverer” of vitamins, who tailored his warnings about deficiencies to suit the food producers who funded him. He also highlights how companies have taken advantage of these concerns—by marketing their products to the fear of the moment.
Fear of Food is a lively look at the food industry and American culture, as well as a much-needed voice of reason; Levenstein expertly questions these stories of constantly changing advice, and helps free us from irrational fears so we can rediscover the joy of eating.
“Guides us through an entertaining series of obsessions—from the outsized fear of flies spreading germs (leading to the 1905 invention of the fly swatter) to a panic about germ-ridden cats infecting human food (which led to a 1912 Chicago public health warning that felines were ‘extremely dangerous to humanity’)…[a] roster of American food nuttiness.”—TheBoston Globe
“[Takes] readers through a succession of American fads and panics, from an epidemic of ‘germophobia’ at the start of the twentieth century to fat phobia at its end. He exposes the instigators of these panics: not only the hucksters and opportunists but also the scientists and health experts.”—Times Literary Supplement