What I'm Reading: Making Supper Safe

May 19, 2013

The topic of food safety is more current than ever before. Over the past few decades, foodborne illness has shifted from being a fairly regionalized threat with the potential to sicken a handful of people in a single outbreak, to a national hazard capable of felling hundreds (if not thousands) of consumers from a single point of contamination.
Food recalls have become so ubiquitous we hardly even notice them. In 2008-2009 the massive salmonella contamination has killed nine people and sickened about 22,500 people. Only few weeks later, a contaminated frozen cookie dough has sent 35 people to the ER. The outbreaks are getting bigger and more deadly. These events are an alarming symptom that there’s something wrong with our food system.

In Making Supper Safe, Ben Hewitt exposes the vulnerabilities inherent to the US food system. The author poses several questions: How can we make our food safe? What are we doing wrong? Are we focusing on the wrong things?With a very casual and easy to read style Hewitt introduces the reader to the world of processing, packaging, and distributing food in America highlighting some of the major flaws.
One thing emerges as you’re flipping through the pages of this rather interesting book: that we are creating an an ever expanding distance between us and our source of nourishment and that this causes all kind of hazards to our health.
A vibrant cast of characters and scientists who are reinventing our food are introduced to the readers. Some of which are almost unimaginable characters.
At the end of some sections I felt overwhelmed and left with a sense of “Ok, we’re doomed!”.
Even though you can feel that the author’s intention was to provide some understanding to the reader; some stories did touched my chords and I finished the book with a sense of foreboding and resignation; thinking ifis time for me to leave the City and go living a more sustainable life in the country.
Hewitt doesn’t preach, he just present you with a good amount of information. It’s up to the reader to process it and form what her/his opinion.
There is one major problem with this book though: the total lack of references. There are almost no footnotes or bibliography; this ultimately undermines the validity of some of the claims the author makes. You’re left wondering is this for real or it’s fiction? Who knows.
I would have been more inclined to take the author "at his word" if he presented some objective references, and I think omitting those references hurts the credibility of his arguments as a whole.
Even if he’s 100% completely and objectively right about everything he writes, he needs to back up that information with references to give it credibility.
However, as a neophyte to this information, this book proves to be a valid general introduction to the world of food safety. I’m sure there will be time in future to examine in depth the topic and verify the sources.
Ultimately, Making Supper Safe explains why we should worry about our food system but also why there’s still a reason to hope to gain trust in our food again. If you don’t know much about food safety, I strongly recommend you give this book a-go. It’s topic worth exploring.


  1. Sounds like a good read and interesting- but no references for the data he discusses? That kind of makes me want to not read the book- I mean, I could read about food borne illness and food safety on Wikipedia and spend $0.