Book Review: Pandora’s Lunchbox

Today, CNE program graduate Theresa Diulus is sharing her review of Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal by Melanie Warner. 

“Just because it’s edible, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”

Those words of the author’s mother are so true. The stories that Melanie Warner tells in this book are stomach churning and mind boggling in a different way because the people she investigates do what is done in the name of innovation and technology advancement. I am all for advances such as a washing machine taking me less time to launder my clothes, but I do not believe that same logic should apply to compressing soybeans into a chicken shape to make me think I’m eating a piece of meat that actually contains no chicken, while also containing 60 ingredients (none of which I can easily pronounce.)

I loved that she actually bagged food and had an area in her house where she let things sit to see what happened to them. (In our house, that’s called our sons’ room!) The first time I ever bought a Nutri-Grain bar (after having received a free one at a 5K race and thinking it was “healthy”), I opened it to put in front of our 2 year old and realized it was moving in my hand. So, I can attest to the fact that bugs can come crawling out of cereal sometimes.

I was most intrigued to read about Dr. Harvey Wiley and his work over 100 years ago with food additives. The fact that he used humans as subjects for one thing was amazing. I found the fact that sodium benzoate and saccharin were among two chemicals he knew then to be dangerous, and they are still being used today, completely shocking. The history that Warner outlines of the governmental policies and procedures that helped it all “make sense” still seems to happen today, as far as information flow. Change takes time, but we need to be educated and take responsibility.

Check out Meghan’s recent interview with Melanie Warner!

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