Michael Pollan has found a need to update his rules. The minimalist set of rules: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The expanded set includes such things as "don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" and "don't eat anything with more than five ingredients on the label."
Pollan is an advocate for un-processed food, and one of the markers he used to identify highly processed foods was high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is not something the home cook can add to a recipe. It's manufactured using highly technical processes, and thus, when it appears on a food label, serves as a warning that the product has undergone intensive processing in a manufacturing plant.
But now that HFCS has been identified as a no-no, food companies are going back to sugar. Yet sugar is not a health food and is not particularly desirable. As Pollan says,
But to boast about your product not having high-fructose corn syrup as being some kind of virtue is really stretching it. And I think what we see here is another example of the food industry’s ingenuity in taking any critique of industrial food and turning it into the next marketing strategy. It’s a lot like the low-fat campaign, you know, which began as a government critique of food, you know, beginning with George McGovern in the ’70s saying we should eat less red meat because of heart disease. Whatever you think of the science of that, which turns out not to have been that good, it was a well-meaning campaign to improve the American diet. Industry came back and re-engineered the whole food system to have less fat in it and no fat in it. And that campaign sold a lot more food. And, in fact, since that campaign, we’ve been eating about 300 more calories a day, and we’re a lot fatter. So, you can’t—you just can’t underestimate their ability turn any critique into a way to sell food.
As a result, Pollan has formulated a new rule: "Don't buy any food you've ever seen advertised":
And with all this new marketing based on these ideas, my new suggestion is, if you want to avoid all this, simply don’t buy any food you’ve ever seen advertised. Ninety-four percent of ad budgets for food go to processed food. I mean, the broccoli growers don’t have money for ad budgets. So the real food is not being advertised. And that’s really all you need to know.