Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions - book cover
  • Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • Published : 25 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 304
  • ISBN-10 : 0812987136
  • ISBN-13 : 9780812987133
  • Language : English

Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Salt Sugar Fat comes a "gripping" (The Wall Street Journal) exposé of how the processed food industry exploits our evolutionary instincts, the emotions we associate with food, and legal loopholes in their pursuit of profit over public health.
"The processed food industry has managed to avoid being lumped in with Big Tobacco-which is why Michael Moss's new book is so important."-Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

Everyone knows how hard it can be to maintain a healthy diet. But what if some of the decisions we make about what to eat are beyond our control? Is it possible that food is addictive, like drugs or alcohol? And to what extent does the food industry know, or care, about these vulnerabilities? In Hooked, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss sets out to answer these questions-and to find the true peril in our food.
Moss uses the latest research on addiction to uncover what the scientific and medical communities-as well as food manufacturers-already know: that food, in some cases, is even more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Our bodies are hardwired for sweets, so food giants have developed fifty-six types of sugar to add to their products, creating in us the expectation that everything should be cloying; we've evolved to prefer fast, convenient meals, hence our modern-day preference for ready-to-eat foods. Moss goes on to show how the processed food industry-including major companies like Nestlé, Mars, and Kellogg's-has tried not only to evade this troubling discovery about the addictiveness of food but to actually exploit it. For instance, in response to recent dieting trends, food manufacturers have simply turned junk food into junk diets, filling grocery stores with "diet" foods that are hardly distinguishable from the products that got us into trouble in the first place. As obesity rates continue to climb, manufacturers are now claiming to add ingredients that can effortlessly cure our compulsive eating habits. 
A gripping account of the legal battles, insidious marketing campaigns, and cutting-edge food science that have brought us to our current public health crisis, Hooked lays out all that the food industry is doing to exploit and deepen our addictions, and shows us why what we eat has never mattered more.

Editorial Reviews

"With Hooked, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Michael Moss dives back into the processed food industry, continuing an inquiry that began in 2014's Salt Sugar Fat. . . . Moss brings the same keen-eyed, lucid reporting to Hooked, illuminating the science of addiction to show that processed food is a drug. . . . If knowledge is power, then Hooked provides the facts we need to free ourselves from remaining unwitting conspirators in Big Food's ruse."-San Francisco Chronicle

"Excellent . . . Hooked blends investigative reporting, science and foodie writing to argue that the processed food industry is no different from tobacco companies. . . . Moss's attention to food addiction should open eyes and convert some free market advocates."-The New York Times

"Hooked is smoothly written, with just the right amount of fascinating scientific detail."-NPR

"Chilling . . . succeed[s] brilliantly in evidencing the systematic venality of corporate junk food and drink interests."-The Guardian

"Michael Moss delivers again with a deep, well-written investigation into food addiction and mass food production. With so many companies competing for our attention, dollars, and stomachs, it's more important than ever to educate ourselves about food and arm ourselves against efforts to get us hooked. This is a very important read for anyone who cares about their health."-Sylvia Tara, author of The Secret Life of Fat

"No one has done more to reveal the intentional and underhanded ways in which food companies manipulate our desires and eating habits than Michael Moss. In Hooked, he shows how these ongoing crimes must be challenged and stopped. A must-read for anyone who cares about food, general well-being, and justice."-Mark Bittman, author of Animal, Vegetable, Junk

"The processed food industry has managed to avoid being lumped in with Big Tobacco-which is why Michael Moss's new book is so important. Hooked shows how food manufacturers have taken advantage of our habits, our biology, our psychological quirks, and our ignorance to transform foods into addictive substances. He takes us into laboratories and courtrooms, kitchens and legislatures-and shows us how we can win our freedom back."-Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

"Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Moss is a powerhouse when it comes to research and analysis, and much like his contemporary Michael Lewis, he possesses the ability to maintain a solid narrative arc. . . . He explores the often devious and potentially dangerous ways that manufacturers manipulate foods to trigger addictive behavior, spark sense memories of foods from our c...

Readers Top Reviews

R. E. ColemanSherry
I gave this a 5* rating because it answered so many questions I had, I've been told so often food addiction isn't real just an excuse for being "weak willled" so it was refreshing to have scientific confirmation that like Ardi I'm driven to eat high calorie sweet foods, and that i just have to avoid temptation rather than trying to say no.
Virat Sharma
This books picks up the thread left in his previous book and gives us an insight into how our own biology works against us. " It is not that we have changed it's just that the food is changed by the companies ". And we are biologically drawn to food. A decent read but the quality of Indian edition book is not upto the mark. The paper quality is poor. Otherwise, a decent read.
Northeast Ohio Tab L
This is a fine enough book but it doesn't go into a study of addictions to food but more talks about it. A disturbing part of the book is chapter 4 where the author takes a dimwitted departure down the rabbit hole of the 'poof there it is theory', better known as the theory of evolution. This is a ridiculous departure and totally unnecessary for the purposes of this book. It could have been written without the authors conjuring of stories about chimps who learned to stand upright to see over grass for better food. (What did they do before they could stand up to avoid starvation? Order pizza?). His glossing over science and blaming our eating habits on evolution and the species quest for a bigger brain is bizarre. It was like watching the news or an episode of Lance Lot Link. Very disappointed in that part of the book, but aside from chapter 4 it is an easy read and you will learn something about the food industry and how they make us crave food, especially fast food. However the chaperone evolution was ridiculous and if you want a serious discussion about the silliness of evolution from a non-religious person, I would read David Berlinski.
"Hooked" by Michael Moss is an expose about how the food industry uses research and careful marketing schemes to get us addicted to food. This book highlights how sugar and processed foods are just as addictive as tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, which is scary considering that most people are exposed to fast, easy, and processed food at a much younger age. This book also provides a really interesting analysis about the evolution of eating habits since the beginning of human life and how the food industry shapes our food habits in the current day. "Hooked" definitely made me think about grabbing that second handful of candy! This book is scary but important.
Shari M
Don’t look to this book for tips or menus to make your eating habits more healthful. It’s an expose about how the food industry uses scientific research and massive, data-supported marketing ploys aimed at getting all Americans-yes, you, me, everyone-addicted to highly-processed, no-nutritive-value, junk food brimming with salt, fat and chemicals. If you want to learn how the food industry-often the same folks who used to push tobacco-looks to control our food habits, and get us addicted, this book is for you. If you’re looking for a cheap, easy fix for losing weight, this is not the answer. And, by the way, the same wonderful folks who are pushing that highly-addicting junk food ALSO own companies that will ‘help’ you diet to lose the weight their other companies caused you to gain. Talk about a win-win situation!

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter One

"What's Your Definition?"

Steve Parrish didn't smoke until he started working for Philip Morris at age forty.

This was 1990. Cigarettes were the main order of business at the company's headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan, just south of Grand Central Station. The conference room tables were adorned with ashtrays and bowls filled with packs of cigarettes. The ceilings had fans to disperse the smoke. The walls sported images of the Marlboro Man and Virginia Slims and the company's other iconic cigarette brands.

When Parrish traveled to Richmond, Virginia, where a Philip Morris factory three football fields long turned out 580 million cigarettes a day, it was all smoking all the time, from the receptionist who would take a slow drag before she greeted you, to the free packs that visitors twenty-­one and older could take home along with a bumper sticker that read "I support smokers' rights."

Parrish was the general counsel of Philip Morris, where it was his job to defend the company in public and in the courts at a time when cigarettes were under attack, and that gave him lots of stress to deal with. Cigarettes soothed his nerves, though there were other aspects of smoking beyond the nicotine that he found compelling. "There are times when I like fiddling with the cigarette before I even light it," he explained back then. "There are times when I like to see the smoke go up. I like the sensation at the back of my throat."

But the most notable thing about Parrish's smoking was how often he didn't. He didn't smoke at home. He didn't smoke on weekends. Now and then, he would light up in a bar, but outside of the company's offices, he felt no compulsion to smoke. Which seemed, at the time, to contradict the idea that cigarettes were addictive.

He was not alone in this. Surveys found that one in five smokers had five or fewer cigarettes a day; some even skipped days altogether. This phenomenon helped form the bulwark of Philip Morris's defense against efforts to hold the company accountable for smoking-­related deaths. As dangerous as cigarettes might be to one's health, how could they be called addictive if millions of people used them so casually?

At least, that's what the company argued back then. Philip Morris had lawyers on staff who compiled thick dossiers on addiction to use as talking points in court. Some of the studies they collected presented smoking as a matter of choice, in which weak self-­control prevented people from being able to quit.

Philip Morris also had staff scientists on hand to counter research that compared smoking to abusing drugs. When one such paper emerged from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, quoting addicts who said it was easier for them to quit heroin than cigarettes, a Philip Morris researcher wrote a rebuttal that called this a false equivalency. "What does this statement mean?" the scientist scoffed. "Do heroin abusers find it difficult to give up soft-­drinks, coffee, or sex?"

Philip Morris also had a chief executive who, in 1994, was willing to climb Capitol Hill and, in front of cameras and under oath, affirm the company's position. "I believe nicotine is not addictive," William Campbell said in that highly publicized appearance. He was joined at the table by six other tobacco company chiefs, all of whom readily agreed on this point.

Indeed, smoking was no more addictive than Twinkies, one of the CEOs said in that same congressional inquiry, and Philip Morris expanded on this comparison in various forums. When the National Institute on Drug Abuse paper had sought to define addiction as the repeated consumption of a toxic substance with undesirable consequence, the company scientist wrote in a memo, "Many people use sugar, saccharin, coffee, soft-­drinks, and candy, repeatedly through the day, and all of these can be ‘toxic' under certain conditions. Does that mean that ingestion of all these chemical compounds produces ‘addiction'?"

The scientist was getting at one of the more challenging aspects of addiction. People, even experts, may think they know an addiction when they see one. But putting a definition to paper can easily cast such a big net that even water could qualify as an addictive substance, given that the body craves it, and under some circumstances-drinking too much while running a marathon, for example-­can fatally disrupt the body's chemistry. On the other hand, the definition could be so restrictive that even some illicit drugs wouldn't fit the bill. The users of cocaine, for instance, don't develop a physical dependence or suffer the pain of withdrawal, which at one time were considered to be hallmarks of addiction.

In 1994, when the Food and Drug Administration's drug abuse advisory c...