Morning Joe | February 27, 2013
>>> no idea who it is. who's the musical director, anyway?
>> it's joe scarborough .
>> " junk food junkie."
>> they'll find me -- how does it end? i'm afraid one day they'll find me with a handful of pringle potato chips and a big mac in my hand.
>> nice to see you eating blueberries.
>> you took away my cinnabon.
>> joining us now, investigative reporter for "the new york times," michael moss. he's out now with a new book, "salt, sugar , fat," how the food giants hooked us. and michael 's findings from the book were featured in the cover story of last sunday's "new york times" magazine.
>> mika, actually, when you were writing your book, "obsessed," that's coming out in a couple of months, the part you were worried about --
>> was this.
>> was this. you thought, people are going to think i'm this crazy freak. but there's science to this, that they spend millions and millions of dollars figuring out how to hook people.
>> and i have to tell you, people who are reading the book are getting craving for my favorite, potato chips , because when you understand how you get inside the head of these food scientists as they're engineering these foods, it's totally absorbing and you can sort of feel the allure that they're pumping into --
>> explain potato chips . take us through the science of that.
>> so potato chips happens to be the single food that's contributing most to obesity in in country.
>> for three reasons. salt, right, which get the blast on your tongue instantly, goes to your brain, says eat more. fat, they're loaded with fat, absorbed, right, which is even more powerful than sugar in some sense, it kind of sneaks up on the brain, twice the calories, encourages you to eat more. but the real trick with potato chips is they're loaded with sugar . not added, but the starch in the potato chip converts to sugar starting the second it hits your tongue. so you're getting the three pillars, the holy grail of the processed food industry, all in that one gorgeous product.
>> and it's why you can't just eat one.
>> so you're saying something happens neurologically?
>> absolutely, yes. in huge quantities, those three ingredients follow the same neurological pathways to your brain as narcotics.
>> so i was going to say that when, ultimately, people end up becoming obese because of these foods, that there is a stigma out there, there is a criticism out there that they are not disciplined. and what you are saying, if you use the word "addiction," it kind of debunks that entire theory, that i think has hurt many people in this country.
>> the food industry hates the word "addiction" more than anything. they love cravability and alawyallu allure, but we know that they have been driving for decades to hit the perfect levels of each of these three ingredients, to the point where if they get it right, they know that they'll send us over the moon , the products fly off the shelves, we'll buy more, we'll eat more. they'll make more money.
>> you ever find the smoking gun in there, the document that says something along the lines of, we're moving towards making this more addictive?
>> there actually is no single smoking gun , it's all over the place. because you have to understand, and this is important, these are companies, and they're made to make money. and they're also under huge pressure from wall street . so some of my favorite chapters in the book are about companies who have actually tried to do the right thing by consumer health, improving the health profile of their products, and they get hammered --
>> how did that work?
>> well, if they did it unilaterally -- well, because if they try to do it unilaterally, wall street steps up, and says, hey, guys, what about these profit margins here? let's go back to more salt, sugar , fat.
>> but isn't it discipline? what do you say about the person, and i know some, who i write about, who eats an entire bag of potato chips . is that the company's fault?
>> the best experts on food addiction will tell you that for some people, many people, these highly loaded, especially sugar and fat products, are every bit as addictive as some narcotics. and their advice to those people is to stay away .
>> literally, stay away . you can't have them.
>> speaking of narcotics, i'm thinking back earlier in my career, working for a very large soda company, and in all of their briefs, they had a very specific thing called, when the soda hit your mouth, the moment of delight. that was the marketing -- there was a certain way to do it, to capture what they called the moment of delight.
>> but what's the difference between the person who can have one or two moments of delight and the person who drinks four cans of soda.
>> it's the same difference between someone that can go to bars, socially, and drink, every night of the week, and have one or two drinks and say, okay, time to go home, and another person that can't cross that threshold. and let's face it, a lot of these companies get -- make a lot of money on those people that can't just have one, that can't just close up the bag of potato chips .
>> and it's a really good point, joe. in fact, they refer to their customers not as customers but as heavy users. and those are the people they target. you know, 20% of us consume 80% of the soda. and that's where they put their marketing --
>> this is a bad thing for our society. is this a job for government in your view? public pressure ? what could break the cycle of our consumer addiction and individual addiction of these foods?
>> you know, i interviewed the former ceo of phillip morris , who plays a whole role in this, because they owned kraft .
>> kraft caramels are not addictive, just really good.
>> he said, i am no friend of government regulation , but it may make sense to impose more regulation on the food industry , simply to give them cover from wall street . because, again, even when they're well meaning and trying to dial back on the loads of sugar , fat, and salt in their products, they can't do it without being hammered by wall street . so i was really moved by him saying that, yeah, in this case, government regulars may be the way to go.
>> and can i just say, really quickly, and we want to read the statement, but for those that say that the government doesn't have any role in this, any regulation in this, i will only tell you what i say every day on this show. the two greatest drivers of long-term debt are medicare and medicaid. and if you look at people that have diabetes and you look at the way the system is set up, if you look at people who have heart problems, that have strokes, that have cancer, it all feeds back to bad diets.
>> there is an economic state stake in the federal government doing what it can do to get americans to eat more healthy. and we can have that debate and we need to have that debate. because it's not about morality, it's not about diet, it's about our fiscal future.
>> and it's also about discriminating against people who are obese and putting them off in a category that is unfair and incorrect. and your book begins this process. you mentioned, by the way, in your book, and it came up in the article, the lunchables . how many working mothers have bought lunchables thinking you're actually buying a little balanced snack for your kids.
>> i love them. my kids eat them.
>> those things were so -- they were not even remotely healthy, correct?
>> and kraft is trying to dial back, under pressure from consumers now to improve the health profile of the lunchables .
>> so they say that they've kind of taken some action here and reduced the sodium and sugar .
>> what are they saying?
>> they're saying, for the last ten years, kraft has been listening to both critics and consumers. we're proud to say we've changed the way we make and market the brands both we and our consumers love. we've made good progress on our journey reducing sodium, fat, and sugar and using ingredients with names consumers recognize. in fact, lunchables is a good example of the actions we've taken, we've reduced sodium by 26%, fat by 20%, saturated fat by 26 wkt, and calories by 14% over the last ten years.
>> and the market is going to get involved, but the government drives these too.
>> exactly. people are increasing caring about what we put into our bodies, and at the same time, they're under increasing pressure from wall street . so there is this --
>> so important.
the book is "salt, sugar, fat: how the food giants hooked us," michael moss, thank you so much.
>> and mika talks a lot about this in "obsessed," when that book comes out. i think it's coming out in may, but you can preorder it right now on amazon. we would love for you to come back, because we'll have a roundtable on american health .
>> i would love to. and i look forward to your book.
>> thank you so much.
>> it was fantastic. thank you.