Ravenous: How to Get Ourselves and Our Planet into Shape by Henry Dimbleby with Jemima Lewis; Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food… and Why Can’t We Stop? by Chris van Tulleken - review by Dan Saladino

Dan Saladino

Fork in the Road

Ravenous: How to Get Ourselves and Our Planet into Shape

By

Profile 336pp £16.99

Ultra-Processed People: Why Do We All Eat Stuff That Isn’t Food… and Why Can’t We Stop?

By

Cornerstone Press 384pp £22
 

It’s possible that Henry Dimbleby’s Ravenous is one of the longest and most constructive resignation letters of recent history. On the eve of the book’s publication, Dimbleby, a founder of the Leon restaurant chain and an adviser to the government on matters of food and farming, announced his departure from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was as an executive director there – dubbed the government’s ‘food tsar’ – that he had produced the National Food Strategy. He told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme that he was deeply concerned about the government’s strategy on diet-related disease and obesity. ‘I wanted to speak out quite forcefully on that,’ he said. Ravenous is indeed forceful, a version of Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy free of bureaucratese.

Like something from a sci-fi or horror film, the food system has become so ‘vast’, ‘complex’ and ‘powerful’, Dimbleby writes, that we’ve each become an ‘unwitting cog’ in a ‘giant machine’. We’re caught up in a vicious circle, eating food that’s making us and the planet sick. Because we’re buying it at such a fast rate, companies are producing more of it. It’s not our fault we’re making the wrong food choices, Dimbleby argues, but it is up to all of us – governments included – to do something about it. 

With his experience as a food-system insider, Dimbleby is able to take us behind the scenes and show us how the mechanisms stretching across the vast supply chains of the food system act together to make us eat what we eat. The British public haven’t suffered ‘a massive collapse of

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RLF - March