Not pleasant reading for the faint of stomach, but a valuable guide for serious, conscientious shoppers.

SORTING THE BEEF FROM THE BULL

THE SCIENCE OF FOOD FRAUD FORENSICS

A disturbing look at how unscrupulous entrepreneurs can tamper with our food supply.

According to Evershed (Biogeochemistry/Univ. of Bristol) and conservationist and science writer Temple, the modern food processing system, with its complex food-supply chain and the ever present consumer demand for the lowest possible price, provides countless opportunities for malfeasance. While the adulteration of honey with corn is a relatively benign example, the undisclosed addition of ground nuts to cumin and other spices can prove fatal for allergy sufferers. The authors state that their purpose in writing this book is twofold. They want to alert consumers to the need for vigilance when shopping for food—even at their favorite supermarket—and inform them about how forensic analysis by food inspectors helps protect them. As consumers become more aware of the issue of authenticity in the food they eat, hopefully they will be able to make better choices. Evershed and Temple believe this to be especially important now, at a time when climate change and increased consumer demand in countries such as China create supply problems that enhance the opportunity for charging higher prices. The authors report cases in India of diluting milk and the well-publicized scandal of counterfeit baby formula in China. Pumping scallops with water to increase their weight is another example of tampering. The authors’ recommendations include purchasing whole, locally grown food from local markets where its provenance is known. They relate how, in 2010, when the olive crop was sparse, California tested imports of oil purported to be Spanish virgin olive oil and found it to be adulterated. The scarcity of overfished species has also created opportunities for fraud, as unscrupulous distributors mislabel fish to disguise their points of origin. Private laboratories now offer DNA testing to wholesale importers and large-scale retailers to authenticate the provenance of the fish they sell.

Not pleasant reading for the faint of stomach, but a valuable guide for serious, conscientious shoppers.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4729-1133-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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