Home—Oakland, CA. Office—Center for Informed Food Choices, P.O. Box 16053, Oakland, CA 94610. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, lawyer, nutritional expert, lecturer, educator, consultant, and advocate. Admitted to the bar of California, 1995; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann, & Bernstein, San Francisco, CA, associate in law firm, 1994-96; Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, policy analyst, 1997-98; public health lawyer and consultant, 1998—; University of California, Hastings College of the Law, assistant professor of health policy, 2005—; University of California, Berkeley, instructor, 2005. John F. Kennedy University School of Law, adjunct professor of law, 1999. Nutrition advocate, 1996—; Center for Informed Food Choices, founder and director. Consultant to public health organizations, including the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Boston, MA, Prevention Institute, Oakland, CA, and Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA. Guest on radio programs and networks.
Association of Health Care Journalists, California Nutrition Network, Community Food Security Coalition, Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments.
Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, Nation Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Hastings Women's Law Journal, New York Times, Food for Good, Alternet, San Francisco Chronicle, Journal of Products and Toxics Liability, Mothering, Corpwatch, VegNews, Oakland Tribune, WholeFoods.com, New Age, Pacific News Service, and the Nation. Informed Eating: A Newsletter of Food Politics and Analysis, editor, 2000—.
Author, attorney, and educator Michele Simon is a dedicated advocate for good nutrition, food safety, public health, and responsible marketing of food products to both adults and children. A prolific writer on food-related topics, as well as a regular lecturer on such issues, Simon is a frequent guest on radio programs covering the food industry, and a legal expert who provides testimony and legal analysis on developments in food regulation, production, and marketing.
In Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, Simon "skewers the food industry for undermining the health of Americans" with what she calls "nutrient deficient factory made pseudo-foods," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In the book, Simon describes how food manufacturers and sellers such as fast-food chains, beverage producers, and processed-food makers "conspire with pliant government regulators to seduce a gullible populace into eating habits" that lead to detrimental health effects such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other physical problems with a direct link to diet. Though these food makers claim their products simply serve a needful public's right to choose, Simon suggests that the actions of the food companies and the government agencies charged with overseeing them result in restrictions on consumers' choices by limiting availability and accessibility. Front groups, Simon notes, are often created by elements within the food industry to work at discrediting critics and spreading misinformation about nutritional content and needs. She also exposes other tactics, such as bogus healthy food initiatives that mean little or nothing, undue influence on government sources, and blatantly false advertising. She offers food buyers suggestions on how to interpret and see through corporate claims that seem to offer healthful alternatives but which often do not. Simon also helps parents recognize and resist the types of food marketing that try to convince children to eat junk food. She also includes definitions of key terms often found in the food industry, resources and lists of organizations for individuals interested in advocating for change, and contact information for leading industry groups. In an interview with Judith Siers-Poisson on PR Watch.org, Simon said that changing one's personal eating habits is a good step, but it's not enough to bring about the broad-based changes that are needed. "It's also important to realize that we have a much broader social problem on our hands and that we need to look for ways to improve the food supply for everyone," Simon told Siers-Poisson. "This expose of Big Food's unethical behavior and devious marketing strategies is a convincing call to action," remarked Mindy Rhiger in Library Journal.
Simon told CA: "I started out as a science major but soon learned I hated the lab and seemed to have writing skills. I was first inspired [to write] by a New York Times science writer.
"Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and What to Eat, was my inspiration for writing about the politics of food. Another favorite author is John Stauber, for exposing the PR industry. I am inspired by good muckraking.
"I follow the writer's advice that first you throw it up and then you clean it up. But my favorite part of writing is when ideas flow that I didn't even know existed in my head until I started typing."
When asked the most surprising thing she has learned as a writer, Simon said: "That once you publish a book on a topic that was so very important, nothing really changes. It's not magic, go figure. Also, that I had to do all the marketing for the book. I still have not figured out exactly what the publisher does.
"Well, after realizing that my books won't change the world, I just hope to contribute to the public discourse. And maybe to inspire a few others to take action. Or at least better understand what's going on."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Simon, Michele, Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, Nation Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Booklist, November 1, 2006, Mark Knoblauch, review of Appetite for Profit, p. 12.
Library Journal, October 1, 2006, Mindy Rhiger, review of Appetite for Profit, p. 98.
Publishers Weekly, September 4, 2006, review of Appetite for Profit, p. 50.
Center for Informed Food Choices,http://www.informedeating.org/ (June 24, 2007).
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood,http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/ (June 24, 2007), biography of Michele Simon.
PR Watch.org,http://www.prwatch.org/ (February 28, 2007), Judith Siers-Poisson, "Appetite for Profit: An Interview with Michele Simon."