Nicols Fox

Spoiled: Why our food is making us sick

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"A first-rate work of journalism in the public interest" Kirkus Reviews

"Spoiled can do for the food industry what Silent Spring did for the environment." Robin Cook, author of Toxin.

Penguin Books, 1998

OUTBREAKS from hamburger, fresh basil, alfalfa sprouts, baby lettuce, fruit juices, and frozen strawberries--each week it seems another familiar food is incriminated as the cause of illness or death. Is this hype and hysteria, or is there a terrifying truth behind the headlines. After writing aritcles on the topic for the Economist, I spent three years researching foodborne illness. Using scientific and medical journal articles as well as hundreds of interviews with victims, epidemiologists, food scientists, and federal officials, I pieced together a worrying picture.

In the past few decades we have changed everything about our relationship to food--how we produce, process and distribute it to how we prepare and eat it--and the changes are making us sick. Intensive factory-farming methods, mass processing, widespread distribution, importing and exporting, and consumer demands for novelty, year-round availability of fresh produce, cheap food, and convenience have each created a niche for an opportunistic pathogen, some unheard of a generation ago. A tangled web of actions and inactions have led to the emergence of each microbial invader, and heartbreaking consequences have been the result.

Tragically, we have upset the subtle ecological balance of the food chain, and we have only begun to pay the price.

Selected Books and Articles

Non-fiction
Alone Together
A look at the Kellam and their lives on Placentia Island off the Maine Coast where they lived simply and without modern conveniences for 35 years.
Non-Fiction
Against the Machine: The Hidden Luddite Tradition in Literature, Art and Individual Lives
Resistance to technology has persisted from the original Luddite Rebellion to the present in Romantic literature, the Victorian novel, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Transcendentalism, the Agrarian, environmental, and back-to-the land movements, in modern literature, and in the lives of contemporary neo-Luddites.
Spoiled: Why our food is making us sick
Spoiled looks at how changes in lifestyle, culture, food production, processing and distribution, have created niches for emerging foodborne pathogens.
It Was Probably Something You Ate
How to avoid and Survive Foodborne Illness