Food, Inc 2 review – second helping of broadsides against the food-industry crisis

<span>Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, features in Food, Inc 2. </span><span>Photograph: Courtesy of River Road and Participant</span>
Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, features in Food, Inc 2. Photograph: Courtesy of River Road and Participant

Robert Kenner’s 2008 documentary Food, Inc was an angry wake-up call to the evils of industrialised food production. Now Kenner is back for another bite, co-directing with Melissa Robledo. In the ensuing 16 years, the food crisis hasn’t gone away – but what’s changed is that the message is out there. So, if you’re already that person in the supermarket looking on the back of the crumpet packet at the ingredients list, or you’re cutting down on meat, there’s perhaps not a lot here that you won’t already know.

Like the proverbial turd sandwich, the documentary feeds its audience thin slices of hope wrapped around the stomach-churning stuff. In positive news, Senator Cory Booker is on a mission in New Jersey to make healthy fresh food available in low-income communities. Against all the odds, a handful of small independent dairy farmers just about manage to eke out a living in the era of mega-dairies.

But then for the unsavoury stuff. You’ve got the climate-heating, habitat-destroying effects of dairy and meat production. The horrors of animal cruelty in mass farming. The human cost to immigrant fruit pickers, exploited and abused in California. Then there’s American fast food workers living in poverty. Like Fran, a mother of two, who tells the camera despairingly: “As an adult, I’ve never been able to afford a doctor.”

To its credit, the film doesn’t dodge complexities. No-nonsense campaigner Michael Pollan, a returning guest from Food, Inc, visits Impossible Foods, makers of plant-based meat alternatives. As Pollan points out, their fake-meat burgers are tasty and less damaging to the planet – but they are ultra-processed. And, as we’ve just learned, people on a diet of mostly ultra-processed food consume 500 more calories a day. Which is cha-ching for big business, since the serious money in food production is in ultra processing (you get the big bucks for making Doritos rather than growing corn). Like I say, there’s nothing new here for even casual followers of the food crisis. But it will make you think twice about what you put in your supermarket basket.

• Food, Inc 2 is in UK cinemas and on digital platforms from 7 June