Swallow This – Serving up the food industry’s darkest secrets (Joanna Blythman)

Swallow ThisSomehow, despite my huge interest in the topic, I only discovered Joanna Blythman recently. Not unlike fellow peer Felicity Lawrence (who works more on the abuse of workers & modern slavery in large-scale commercial food production), Blythman shares the front-line of food journalism/activism. This is her fifth book on food & deals predominantly with the hidden ingredients & deceptive stealth-feeding from an increasingly abnormal industry. It starkly lays bare the unbelievably clandestine, shadowy & shamefully devious machinations, legislative witling & active erosion of food health & safety, quality & consumer choice. Informed decisions or even just plain market-based democracy are constantly sabotaged & undermined by an insistent & nefarious corporate tinkering often with complicit or totally inefficient government collusion. The objective for these horrible profit-driven swindlers is systems & strategies in tricking the unwitting into consuming what they don’t want or are even deliberately avoiding without their knowledge or consent. Hence reams of new “Clean Labelling” lingo, where E-numbers & other chemicals & irregular oddities that would raise alarms on an ingredients list are replaced with carefully tailored euphenisms & semantic camouflage to bypass & dupe sovereign consumers. In one of the greatest feats of investigative journalism in food in the last decade, Blythman gains access (via posing under a fake ID) to the secretive Food Ingredients, an annual trade show of ingredients suppliers, distributors & buyers that she describes perfectly as “the food manufacturers equivalent of an arms fair”. Awfully, I had never even heard of Food Ingredients before reading Swallow This regardless of extensive study in the field, but considering the extremely surreptitious reticence, diligent self-concealment & formidable shared secrecy of the event & it’s attendees it’s hardly surprising. As Blythman points out in this chapter – “consistent with industry view that a general public is best given only the sketchiest notion of what goes on behind the scenes of food processing, Food Ingredients events aren’t open to the general public. Anyone who tries to register has to show that they work in food manufacturing”. How these companies can exist legally & gain access to an unaware &/or unwilling public through such dire duplicity yet exercise such seclusion & secrecy about themselves is deeply shocking. Much like the absolutely monstrous criminal behemoth Monsanto which schemes to anonymously/untraceably penetrate all food production (I don’t exaggerate, research the companies egregiously insane history for proof of perversion), invisibility, evasion & a policy of undeclared & undetectable malpractice is being taken to ever sophisticated extremes. This 13 page chapter specifically exposing Food Ingredients is a milestone. Pretty much everything seems to be designed to save costs & trick the consumer into thinking they are ingesting something natural or fresh that is chemically derived or chemically “enhanced”. One such company boasts “why buy ingredients when you can buy solutions”, a quote that could summarize the entire gaggle of predatory hoaxers & their mad, grossly artificial substitutes. Blythman reports – “Food Ingredients is so clearly the domain of a technocracy of engineers and scientists, people whose natural environment is the laboratory and factory, not the kitchen, farm or the field”. She also goes on to explain “At Food Ingredients, I rapidly realised that for big companies with a finger in many business pies, food processing is just another revenue system. They experience no cognitive dissonance in providing components not only for your ready meal, but also for your fly spray, air freshener, shower sealant, deodorant, computer casing, scratch resistant car coating, paint and glue”. Through the rest of the books thirteen chapters, Blythman provides a remarkably wide reaching & massively informative up-to-date account on processed food, it’s deeply-disturbing redacted ingredients & the multitude of subterfuge surrounding it’s content & even it’s very definition. Swallow This is put simply, an invaluably important trove of information, pioneering piece of food related reportage & damning account of the utterly insane & vile reality of modern food adulteration, mis-selling & government/regulatory impotence concerning commercial food contamination.

Publisher: Fourth Estate (2015)

Author: Joanna Blythman