Today I’m talking with Michael Moss, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2010, and was a finalist for the prize in 2006 and 1999. He is also the recipient of a Loeb Award and an Overseas Press Club citation. Before coming to the Times, he was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I read his book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, in preparation for this interview and wish its contents could somehow be required reading for anyone who sets foot in a grocery store. More on that later…let’s get right to the questions.
1) What’s your latest book, Salt Sugar Fat, all about, and what are you hoping to accomplish with it?
It’s an expose of the processed food industry, based on a trove of confidential documents that put me at the table of the largest food manufacturers as they are planning, plotting and formulating new products. These documents, which I fully footnote in the book, in turn, enabled me to identify the key players in processed foods – scientists, marketers, CEOs – and convince them to talk to me and reveal even more secrets about their heavy dependence on salt, sugar and fat to maximize the allure of their products. I’m hoping the book is a wake-up call for the processed food industry, and at the same time empowering to consumers, in that simply knowing everything the companies are doing to compel consumption of their products is in itself a powerful tool in learning to shop and eat more healthily.