LETHAL BUT LEGAL by Nicholas Freudenberg


Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health
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A call to arms to fight the “corporate consumption complex,” offering strategies and resources that can be enlisted in the fight.

It’s all about capitalism and profit, writes Freudenberg (Public Health/CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College) as he lays out the sins of the alcohol, automobile, firearms, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries, all of which are contributing to ill health and preventable deaths. Many of these sins are well-known—e.g., the relation between fast food and obesity or smoking and cancer. The author also reveals that a chunk of alcohol industry profits comes from underage and pathological drinking, as well as the fact that current restraints on tobacco advertising in America have simply moved the targets overseas. Freudenberg emphasizes that corporations are multinational, marketing is global, and corporate interests are aided by liberal trade agreements and U.S. patent rights. So what to do? In the final chapters, the author reviews the rise of child labor and worker safety laws as well as the Food and Drug Administration and looks at examples of current efforts to protect consumers. Chances of success improve with such strategies as making the personal political (getting patients to testify), suggesting alternatives (yes, reduce car emissions but also argue for increased mass transit), targeting specific companies, inviting partners and generalizing the issue (not just malt liquor, but other unhealthy product advertising). Ideally, Freudenberg seeks “a new ideology for health and democracy” with a unifying policy agenda. It would expand consumer rights, require firms to pay for damages they cause, establish global health standards, protect science and universities from corporate invasion, re-empower government to protect the public’s health and prevent corporations from manipulating the democratic process.

A richly detailed account of how corporate power has been used to corrupt health and well-being, along with excellent advice on what readers can do about it.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-19-993719-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2014


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