Page 4


REVIEW Carry That Weight BY JAMES E. MCWILLIAMS Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s By Hank Cardello Ecco 272 pages, $25.99 Critical gestures against industrial food are all the rage these days. Michelle Obama planted a White House garden. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack jackhammered a D.C. sidewalk to grow his own greens. Democratic members of Congress are carrying dog-eared copies of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Meanwhile, the American gut, oblivious to the posturing, expands to unprecedented proportions. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Americans with a body mass by 50 percent. There is no shortage of explanations for our flab, but all the theories promote a common solution: They demand a revamped food system that eschews industrialization and embraces smallscale production. There are thousands of nutrition-related books on the market, but the allure of Hank Cardello’s Stuffed is that he confronts this conventional wisdom head on. Rather than offer a predictable condemnation of industrial food, he portrays the purveyors that have plumped us up as our likeliest saviors. “The real solution must come from the food industry:’ he writes. “They hold all the cards!’ The pragmatism underscoring Cardello’s argument is admirable. Industry does hold the cards, and any viable solution to America’s food issues will have to work with, rather than ignore, industry. That said, Cardello, a former executive at Coca-Cola Co. and General Mills Inc., ultimately fails to make a convincing case. Part of the problem is his thorough job of exposing the insidious tactics of the industry that cranks out our food. Drawing on detailed knowledge of the corporate supply chain, he ably highlights the hidden aspects of the food system that contribute most to our horizontal growth. A chapter on the “purchasing agent”the person in charge of buying in bulk for restaurantsis a case in point. Taking us deep into the “mechanics of the restaurant business,” Cardello convincingly demonstrates how agents advance their careers, promote the corporate philosophy, and help keep food cheap by buying massive quantities of highly preserved, calorie-stuffed edibles. Until and unless such “cheaper argues, “healthier restaurant food will be slow in coming!’ All fine and good. But Cardello ignores a key question: how to get the food industry to prioritize human health over corporate profit? The answer is pivotal to Cardello’s argument. He never provides it. The logical place to look for a solution would be government. But for reasons that are never substantiated, he 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 15, 2009