Marion Nestle's Pet Food Politics

© Lee Friedman
Marion Nestle's Pet Food PoliticsThis month, nutrition expert, NYU food-studies professor and What to Eat author Marion Nestle has a fantastically readable, lucid new book on an otherwise ridiculously turgid, daunting subject: our ever-more globalized food chain and its inherent risks. In her wryly titled Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, Nestle uses the infamous pet-food recall of 2007 to portray the interconnectedness of our entire food industry, and its need for greater oversight. Last year, the Canadian Menu Foods company had to recall a mind-blowing 60 million-plus cans and packages of cat and dog food, packaged under a whopping 95 different brands, after discovering that they contained wheat gluten from China that had been tainted with melamine and a byproduct, cyanuric acid, two industrial chemicals that together caused kidney failure in animals.

Many of us might look for the nearest pile of sand to bury our heads and try to forget the unfortunate event, but Nestle follows the melamine trail to explain in clear English what happened, why, and what to do about it. On more than one subway ride, I found myself so absorbed by her Grisham-esque narrative that I missed my stop. And I’m surprisingly heartened: She reports how the pet-food industry has begun to clean up its act—and explains out how the rest of the food world can, too (For anyone concerned about the recent baby-formula scandal, this book might help.)

Last week, Nestle took a moment to talk about writing Pet Food Politics, what pet owners should feed their animals and her relationship to the beautiful Samoyed dog that appears with her in the photograph on the book jacket. A Q&A follows after the jump.