Pandora's Lunchbox

How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

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In the tradition of Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma comes a fascinating and cutting-edge look at the scary truth about what really goes into our food.

If a piece of individually wrapped cheese can retain its shape, color, and texture for years, what does it say about the food we eat and feed to our children?

Former New York Times business reporter and mother Melanie Warner decided to explore that question when she observed the phenomenon of the indestructible cheese. She began an investigative journey that took her to research labs, university food science departments, and factories around the country. What she discovered provides a rare, eye-opening—and sometimes disturbing—account of what we’re really eating. Warner looks at how decades of food science have resulted in the cheapest, most abundant, most addictive, and most nutritionally inferior food in the world, and she uncovers startling evidence about the profound health implications of the packaged and fast foods that we eat on a daily basis.

From breakfast cereal to chicken subs to nutrition bars, processed foods account for roughly 70 percent of our nation’s calories. Despite the growing presence of farmers’ markets and organic produce, strange food additives are nearly impossible to avoid. Warner digs deep into the ingredient lists of purportedly healthy foods, and what she finds will change the way readers eat—and how they feed their children.

Combining meticulous research, vivid writing, and cultural analysis, Warner blows the lid off the largely undocumented—and lightly regulated—world of chemically treated and processed foods and lays bare the potential price we may pay for consuming even so-called healthy foods.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451666731 | 
  • February 2013
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Read an Excerpt

Pandora’s Lunchbox Introduction
A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, I went to the supermarket and bought an overflowing armful of cereal boxes and cookie packages. I’d started writing about the food industry for the New York Times not long before, and I’d decided to test whether those expiration dates printed on packages actually meant anything. I’d always wondered what happened to food after the expiration dates passed. Would the cookies turn green or taste like old shoes? Would bugs crawl out of the cereal? I tucked... see more

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