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The Ethics of Food Choice: Personal Responsibility vs. Social Responsibility

When Apr 02, 2009
from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Where Nittany Lion Inn, Ballroom C
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Although individuals ultimately vote with their forks when it comes to food choices, many factors in society make it easier to make some choices rather than others.  In parallel with rising rates of obesity, the food environment has changed in ways that now encourage everyone to eat more often, in more places, and in larger portions. It has become socially acceptable to eat in cafes and in book and clothing stores, to have vending machines in schools, to allow food companies to market to children in school, and to permit children to drink sodas all day long. Underlying these societal changes is an overabundant and competitive food system in which companies must sell more food to more people more often in order to meet corporate growth targets.  Is this food system ethical?  If obesity and poor diets are due to multiple personal and societal factors, then multiple actions must take place to address these problems.  These actions must be directed toward more ethical changes in society as well as in personal choice.

This presentation was part of the Richard B. Lippin Lectureship in Ethics.

Marion Nestle

Used on the event page.Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, and Professor of Sociology, New York University

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003.  She also holds an appointment as Professor of Sociology at NYU. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley.   She has held faculty positions at Brandeis University and the UCSF School of Medicine. From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health.  Her research examines scientific, economic, and social influences on food choice.  She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007); Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism (2003); and What to Eat (2006).  Her latest book, Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, was published in September 2008.  Her website is and, since May 2007, she has been blogging at