Film aims to expose dangers in U.S. food industry

Tue Jun 9, 2009 7:09pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bigger-breasted chickens fattened artificially. New strains of deadly E. coli bacteria. A food supply controlled by a handful of corporations.

The documentary "Food, Inc." opens in the United States on Friday and portrays these purported dangers and changes in the U.S. food industry, asserting harmful effects on public health, the environment, and worker and animal rights.

Big corporations such as biotech food producer Monsanto Co., U.S. meat companies Tyson Food Inc. and Smithfield Foods, and poultry producer Perdue Farms all declined to be interviewed for the film.

But the industry has not stood silent. Trade associations across the $142-billion-a-year U.S. meat industry have banded together to counter the claims. Led by the American Meat Institute, they have created a number of websites, including one called

"Each sector of the industry that's named is doing its part to counter a lot of the misinformation in the movie," said Lisa Katic, a dietitian and consultant with an unnamed coalition of trade associations representing the food industry.

Their campaign promotes the U.S. food supply as safe, abundant and affordable, whereas the film asserts that images of animals grazing on grassy farms emblazoned on U.S. food product labels are misleading.

"Food, Inc." explores the argument that food comes not from friendly farms but from industrial factories that put profit ahead of human health.

"The film pulls back the curtain on the way food is produced," said Michael Pollan, who appears in the film and is the best-selling author of several books including "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.   Continued...

<p>A Chinese woman reads newspaper beside an advertisement for a U.S. fried chicken fast-food chain in Shanghai, January 16, 2004. REUTERS/Claro Cortes</p>