Science fiction and fantasy


Buy on Kobo

Real Food Fake Food

by Larry Olmsted

If you weren't already a fussy eater, prepare to become one after reading this book. Larry Olmsted takes aim at the manipulation, poor regulation, and sometimes outright fraud that means people are often not eating food that's as healthy or tasty as they expect.

This book is written with an American perspective. Since America has a different regulatory regime to the European Union, different allowed ingredients, and different farming practices, the story isn't quite so shocking for European readers. But as a European reading this there is no space for complacency. The story that emerges clearly is the strong link between good food and government efforts to legislate for and enforce high standards.

The author starts by examining some high-end products. Real Kobe beef wasn't available at all in the US, even though lax labelling meant that a lot of people thought they were tasting it. There's a lot of detail about how foods such as genuine Parma ham, olive oil, and some cheeses are made. Yet in the US the labelling can be misleading, so the inferior products are sold as if they're the best, and only careful reading of the fine print will show the difference.

The book catalogues many different kinds of food fraud and misleading labelling. Fish fraud is rife because fish look so similar. Olive oil, cheese, meat, wines, honey, coffee, tea, rice, spices, and fruit juice are discussed. There are plenty of indications of what to look for to help you tell whether a food is likely to be pure and of good quality.

There are also some foods, packing techniques, or countries of origin that are best avoided. Real Food Fake Food explains the food production processes and the risks involved in such detail that making informed choices becomes much easier.

There are few things more fundamental than our diets, and I read this book with growing horror about the many ways things can go wrong, the widespread deception, and the sheer vigilance most people will need in order to eat well. There are some easy wins, such as looking for region of origin labelling or never buying meat that may have been packaged in carbon monoxide to make it look fresher. For Europeans, this book is less shocking due to tighter controls on food production, yet the major lesson is that strict rules on food keep us healthy, and we loosen them at our peril. It's about far more than pleasant tastes.

21st November 2019

5 star rating

Review ©

Source: own copy

Book Details

Year of release: 2016

Categories: Books

If you like this, try:

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat cover
Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat by Philip Lymbery
An exploration of how the move to industrialised farming has affected animal welfare, human health, and the environment. Taking a global perspective, this book pulls no punches in its critique of intensive factory farming.

The Secret Eater