Thursday, September 18, 2008


Whether padded, diluted, contaminated, substituted, or outright faked, Bad Food has a history. SWINDLED tells it!

“An entertaining history of food adulteration, rather than a the-sky-is-falling warning.”

—Whitney Hallberg, ForeWord Magazine

“Food writer Bee Wilson brings a feisty, learned hand to this history of food swindles while coaxing dark comedy from a greed so biblically powerful it could kill.”

—Peter Lewis, Barnes and Noble Review

“[Wilson] wants to shake us awake, to make us look afresh at the food we eat. She does so triumphantly. . . It is her considered and often humorous approach that makes this book so successful—and so alarming.”

—Clare Clark, Times (London)

In a world where we are wary of fraud through the mail, phone, and internet, many of us wouldn’t think to look in our refrigerators. But according to Bee Wilson, that’s exactly where we should look. Through a fascinating mixture of cultural and scientific history, food politics, and culinary detective work, SWINDLED: The Dark History of Food Fraud, From Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee (Cloth, ISBN: 978-0-691-13820-6, $26.95, October 15, 2008) uncovers the many ways swindlers have cheapened, falsified, and even poisoned our food throughout history. In the hands of people and corporations who have prized profits above the health of consumers, food and drink have been tampered with in often horrifying ways. SWINDLED gives a panoramic view of this history, from the leaded wine of the ancient Romans and drunk cows in the suburbs of nineteenth-century New York City to today’s food frauds—such as fake organics and Chinese babies being fed bogus milk powder.

Wilson, named Food Journalist of the Year by the Guild of Food Writers, pays special attention to nineteenth- and twentieth-century America and England and their roles in developing both industrial-scale food adulteration and the scientific ability to combat it. As SWINDLED reveals, modern science has both helped and hindered food fraudsters—increasing the sophistication of scams but also the means to detect them. The big breakthrough came in Victorian England when a scientist first put food under the microscope and found that much of what was sold as “genuine coffee” was anything but.

Arguing that industrialization, laissez-faire politics, and globalization have all hurt the quality of food, SWINDLED ultimately calls for both governments and individuals to be more vigilant, and to reeducate ourselves about the joys of food and cooking.

About the Author:

Bee Wilson is the author of The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us. She writes a weekly food column for London’s Sunday Telegraph and is a former food critic for the New Statesman. She has been named Food Journalist of the Year by the Guild of Food Writers and Food Writer of the Year by BBC Radio 4.

The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee
Bee Wilson

Cloth | ISBN: 978-0-691-13820-6 | $26.95 / £15.95
400 pp. | 6 x 9 | 53 halftones.

Pub date: October 15, 2008

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