Pandora’s Lunchbox

Pandora’s Lunchbox

How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

Scribner, 2014 more...

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Food journalist Melanie Warner discusses the shockingly hazardous content of many foods you may consume every day. Using illuminating stories, she provides a well-researched history of popular processed foods, vitamins and additives. She delves into the methods manufacturers use to accommodate the public’s hunger for different food products. Warner describes how food producers add manufactured substances to products to earn more profit and extend shelf life, and she explains why these unhealthy additives remain in your food supply. getAbstract recommends her comprehensive report to anyone running a food-related business, to all health-conscious consumers and especially to parents.


Weird Science

Each summer, New Orleans’ Morial Convention Center fills with 15,000 people attending the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, which displays the “latest advances in food science.” An assortment of familiar and unfamiliar ingredients dominates the displays. You’ll find vanilla extract, dried fruit, algae-based flour and even inner pea fiber. These products have a single purpose: to lower the manufacturing cost of your food.

Cheaper Ingredients

Fresh berries are a costly ingredient in prepared foods, so food technology experts have created Flav-R-Bites made of “flour, sugar, starch flavorings and just 6% blueberry solids.” These chunks replace real berries in prepared products and keep prices low. Including just 6% of real berries in their mixes allows the manufacturer to keep the word “blueberry” on the package.

Starch manufacturer National Starch offers a thickener that enables producers to create a less expensive version of popular Greek yogurt, which has no official definition. Vendors add this thickener to regular yogurts and call them “Greek-style.”

Cellulose, an additive made “from tree pulp,” keeps hamburgers...

About the Author

Freelance business journalist Melanie Warner writes about the food industry for a variety of media, including The New York Times, and

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