By Roger Moore
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)
Every food recall pushes "Food, Inc.," Robert Kenner's documentary about the state of our food supply, into the news.
"There's a tremendous interest in this subject," Kenner says. "Every time something we eat is recalled, interest goes up."
Rave reviews aren't the only reason a movie that isn't playing in many theaters is creating a stir.
"It's a documentary about the American food system the way 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' was a documentary about archaeology," griped the National Chicken Council.
We reached the 59-year-old PBS vet in Los Angeles.
Question: How has the food we eat been transformed by McDonald's?
Answer: All these companies tried to figure out how to serve food more efficiently, more cheaply. That's not evil. The problem is there've been consequences with it. Sugar and salt have been tucked into everything. We're not seeing the real cost at the checkout counter. One in every three Americans born after the year 2000 will have early onset diabetes, thanks to what's in the food. That would bankrupt our health care system.
Not only has the food transformed, we've been transformed. We're fatter. Kids are developing earlier because of the hormones.
Q: Most of what's in this film has been reported by authors such as Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation"), who is in the movie. What surprised you?
A. I went to a hearing about whether or not to label "cloned meat." I didn't even know we had cloned meat. But when an industry representative got up there and said they thought it would be "too confusing" to the consumer, I got goose-bumps. Corporations are trying to stop you from finding out what's in your food.
Q: You don't seem to have gotten a lot of cooperation or input from feed lot operators, chicken processors, chemical companies, the folks who would take issue with your film.
A: I was totally prepared to represent all points of view in this film. But industrial producers of pork or beef or what have you did not want to talk. Now, after the movie's come out, they're trying to come after it.
There are companies like Cargill that are saying that "We WELCOME this conversation." They see the benefits of industrial farming, but they're willing to look at a myriad of solutions. I appreciate that response.
Wal-Mart was the shock of shocks, in terms of who would go on camera and talk to me. We found a lot of interesting, wonderful and outspoken farmers. Talking about food today is something you do at your peril.
Q: For all the alarming things "Food, Inc." reports, it seemed to me a pretty optimistic film.
A: Wal-Mart announced, while we were filming, that they were not going to buy any more milk with RBST. The government didn't stop them — their costumers told them they didn't want hormones in their milk and stopped buying it. Then, guess what? Monsanto sold the corporation that made the hormone. Consumers used their power and changed something.
Q: So, what did you have for breakfast?
A: Oatmeal, locally grown cantaloupe. In LA, in Florida, it's not hard to buy local produce.
No one should be scared of the food that's there. But we vote three times a day with our forks. You can take one of those meals and try to eat organic, try to eat locally grown foods. You HAVE a voice.
(c) 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.