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



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...


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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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