The breadth of products controlled by the food industry — amply toxic and less so — is itself a symptom of a deeper problem that has public health symptoms, but a political economic cause. The food industry is an oligopoly that has transformed not only what we eat but how we eat it, and what we think of food. Which is why the logic of Proctor’s argument as it could apply to the food industry waits in the wings — for now. It’s hard to entertain the abolition of the food industry, because it’s difficult to imagine ourselves in a world without PepsiCo, Nestlé, Kraft (formerly part of Philip Morris), and friends, and their product lines.
Few have lived in a world in which a handful of corporations don’t run the food system. The food industry has made our world theirs. Instant meals and ready calories are as much a part of the fabric of late capitalist life as the culture in which they’re acceptable. Excising corporations from an economy that has come to depend on their products addresses the problem of added toxins in food. But it does little to change the circumstance that renders those foods a caloric raft for the poor, nor does it address deeper injustices within the food system spawned by corporate power.
But a better food system needn’t be limited to one where food giants behave a little better because they are taxed and hushed a little. Lustig and colleagues argue for limits to corporate power in food because, by adding sugar to almost everything they make, they make us less free as consumers. Extending Proctor’s argument to those very corporate powers invites us to imagine what a world without Big Food might look like — and dream ourselves freer still.