Food, Inc. is a 2009 documentary made by Robert Kenner (director and producer) and Eric Schlosser (co-producer, author of Fast Food Nation) about the American food industry. It explores the ways that food conglomerates make decisions based on profits, rather than a sincere desire to provide fresh healthy and inexpensive food to Americans. The filmmakers investigate how food corporations control American farmers, as well as how these corporations dictate everything that we eat (for example, how some type of corn derivative is in almost every processed food available).
They also interview farmers and food-safety advocates in order to learn more about how these industry decisions affect individuals. These interviews reveal that those who lobby for safer foods often come up against barriers, because the government officials to whom they appeal for support are also personally involved in the business of American food mass-production. The main message of this film is that the food we buy in local supermarkets is not necessarily safe or healthy, and we as consumers need to take care of ourselves when we buy food. On a broader level, we need to “vote with our food choices,” by supporting local, organic foods that are safer and healthier.
While the film explores an incredibly important issue, it is also very basic. It did not present any information that was new to me, particularly because criticism of the American food industry has been so pervasive over the past few years (Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the local food movement, to name a few). While this is perhaps the first artistic effort to present this information on film, it was not done in a creative way. I felt bored halfway through this 94-minute documentary, and even the interviews didn’t keep me engaged. Some documentaries can be really interesting and inspirational, even if they cover a topic that is boring or old news; this wasn’t one of them, at least for me.
That being said, I would recommend this documentary to someone who is just starting to learn about the food industry and how to eat more healthily. It is an educational film that presents powerful, sometimes shocking information in an easily-accessible format. Also, it provides a way of getting this information out to the public quickly; people don’t need to set aside days to read a book about this when they can instead spend ninety-four minutes watching the documentary. They can also explore the film’s website to learn more how to improve their food choices and take action.