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Food, Inc.: An Impetus for Much-Needed Change
By Devon Carlson, MS, RD, and Alison Lowy

Food, Inc. is a must-see film for everyone with an interest in or a concern about our food system. It is not for the faint of heart, as it provides a stark look at the business of food in America, which, based on this film, is not pretty. The movie examines myriad elements of the food industry and presents startling information that the public may not find in the average consumer health magazine.

Food, Inc. offers insight into how the U.S. food industry has been pared down to only a handful of food producers. According to the film, even though supermarkets appear to offer variety—some carry up to 47,000 products—consumers actually purchase the same few ingredients, which are reconfigured to appear and taste differently using additives and various modes of packaging.

What are these few ingredients found in 90% of supermarket products? The heavily subsidized commodity crops—corn, wheat, and soy—processed into various forms unrecognizable to the average consumer. As Food, Inc. reveals, this method of food production does not yield variety; instead, it limits consumers’ choices and makes them spectators rather than participants in matters that affect their own health and wellness.

Food, Inc. does not provide concrete solutions to the problems this country is facing; however, it does emphasize in its final minutes that Americans have a voice. They can project that voice every time they wheel their shopping cart to the supermarket checkout. They can be more cognizant of their purchases by reading labels, getting to know local farmers and purchasing their produce when possible, buying seasonal foods, cooking in their own homes more often, and simply eating meals with family.

This is an important movie for RDs to see because as educators, a substantial part of our job is helping clients and patients make better choices. To accomplish this, we must recognize what choices are available to us. And if we find that our choices are limited, it is our responsibility to get involved and help make the changes necessary to improve the nation’s food system.

Food, Inc. presents a dramatic picture of the food industry. It won’t make activists out of all of us, but it certainly provides some solid food for thought.

— Devon Carlson, MS, RD, completed her master’s degree in nutrition education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her main focus is counseling in celiac disease, diabetes, and food allergies.

— Alison Lowy will receive her master’s degree in nutrition education from Teachers College, Columbia University and will take the RD exam this fall. She is interested in issues surrounding nutrition and the environment.