Food, Inc. opens today, and while the documentary on our nation’s food industry may be the summer’s most virtuous blockbuster, the New York Times also called it the "scariest," and Hearst reviewer Amy Biancolli wrote, "I might never want to ingest anything ever again." Okay, so it’s one to see after lunch. This is the first feature-length documentary from director Robert Kenner, who won an Emmy for the PBS show Two Days in October. MenuPages writer Alexis Wright chatted with Kenner this week to find out a little more about the man who hopes to rattle cages — rather, grocery carts — on a level with Upton Sinclair.
What’s your main goal for this film?
I just want people who might not have thought about this stuff to start thinking about it. This is not a film for the converted. This system is going to change. Just like Rosa Parks changed civil rights in America, I think it’s going to be moms who want to feed better food to their kids who change the food industry.
What were you most surprised to learn about the food industry?
My first shock was the hearing on cloning–and that was the first day of filming! I didn’t even know there was cloned meat. It’s scary. And the fact that they don’t want to label things and include it on packaging because it’s "confusing" for consumers…it’s scary… We live in a nation based on freedom of choice and information, but we’re being denied that information. It’s shocking. We’re in the dark.
So, everyone slips now and then, even with the best of intentions. What food is your guilty pleasure?
Well, I don’t drink soda or really eat desserts. Industrial food just doesn’t taste good to me anymore and I try to stay away from it–and when I say industrial food that’s not just meats, but even things like tomatoes and lettuce. But when you’re traveling it’s hard. I don’t really have any one guilty pleasure. [i recently] had an industrial sausage because I didn’t know it was going to be in what I ordered, the person I was with threw it away, but I didn’t want to throw it away because I knew that wouldn’t help anything.
What did you eat on the set?
On the set we had the worst food you could imagine! When you’re in some of these mid-America towns you don’t have many options. It was really hard even getting to a supermarket in a lot of the places we were. It’s what people call a food desert. It’s just fast food and convenient stores.