By Denis Faye

So far, the American food industry has managed to escape the intense scrutiny endured by fellow dubious institutions like Big Tobacco and the health care industry. Sure, every once in a blue moon, a book like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal or a film like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me captures the public consciousness, but it rarely has much impact. Sure, McDonald's might be persuaded to downsize its french fry servings, but this doesn't even scratch the surface of our dysfunctional relationship with the companies that put food on our plates. You can lessen the amount of potatoes you eat all you want—there's still going to be cow manure in your hamburger.

If you rolled your eyes at that last comment, you're probably about to stop reading, so see ya later. Enjoy your corn-based chicken nuggets and 32-ounce high-fructose-corn-syrup–packed Coke®. But if the idea that the meat packing industry allows animal waste laced with E. Coli—which sickens 73,000 Americans annually—to get into the meat you feed your family horrifies you, you probably want to see Food, Inc.

Directed by Robert Kenner, Food, Inc. is basically a series of loosely woven documentary vignettes blasting holes in various aspects of the food industry, covering topics like obesity, factory farming, genetic engineering, food-borne illness, and farm and industrial worker exploitation.

Schlosser, who coproduced the film, and Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, figure prominently throughout the 90-minute film. In fact, many of the chapters are based on reports from the two journalists' successful books, so if you've read them, much of this documentary is probably old news. That said, if you've read both Fast Food Nation and Omnivore's Dilemma from cover to cover, your interest in the subject probably runs fairly deep, so it's worth checking out the film just to see the people you've read about in the flesh. For example, Pollan's book devotes several pages to Polyface Farms, a Virginia-based operation devoted to the sustainable raising of grass-fed livestock. Polyface owner/farmer Joel Salatin has a lot of screen time in Food, Inc., and his high-spirited pontificating is all the more entertaining on the big screen.

But Food, Inc. isn't just the province of Schlosser and Pollan. It serves as a primer for food industry activism in general. If a particular aspect of the movie captures your interest, there's probably another book or documentary that explores the issue in depth. If you're stunned by seed and pesticide supplier Monsanto's habit of suing independent farmers for patent infringement when their fields are accidentally overrun by the company's genetically engineered soybeans, have a look at Deborah Koons Garcia's documentary The Future of Food.

Or if the fact that the restaurant and snack industries have learned to make junk food addictive by using the perfect blends of saltiness, sweetness, and fattiness bothers you, read David A. Kessler's recent book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Just pick a topic and go exploring.

While there is a definite doom-and-gloom aspect to Food, Inc., it also offers solutions. The plight of food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyk, whose toddler son Kevin died from eating E. Coli-laced meat, offers viewers a chance to contact their local representatives and push for the reintroduction of the food industry reform bill Kevin's Law.

The film's Web site,, offers many opportunities to get involved.

It's hard to say why the food industry isn't held as accountable as other industries. Perhaps it's not as obvious an evil as Big Tobacco. Perhaps there are more of us who prefer access to cheap, highly caloric, nutritionally void foods over healthy produce and clean meat. But if you're in the second camp and you're "hungry for change," Food, Inc. is a good place to start.