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Beatrice Trum Hunter, Nutrition Author and Former Consumers’ Research Bulletin Food Editor, Dies

Beatrice Trum Hunter, a noted and prolific writer on food and nutrition who is credited with writing the first natural foods cookbook in the United States, has passed away at the age of 98.

Hunter’s 1961 The Natural Foods Cookbook extolled the virtues of natural healthy eating decades before “organic” and “all-natural” became buzzwords among foodies, and long before the farm-to-table movement. Hunter was concerned about the additivies and preservatives appearing in food at the time, as well as the proliferation of processed foods. She wrote, “Foods treated in this manner may appear brighter and last longer, but the people who eat them don’t.” Mrs. Hunter would go on to write 38 more books over her life on the subject of nutrition and food safety.

Hunter was initially inspired by 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, written by Consumers’ Research founders Arthur Kallet and F.J. Schlink. The 1933 book’s premise was that due to the absence of an effective government regulator for consumer products, the American people were being used as guinea pigs; they were marketed and sold an array of foods, drugs, and cosmetics that were ineffective, unsafe, or downright dangerous. It was in this environment – just before the Great Depression – that Kallet and Schlink founded Consumers’ Research in 1929 (making it the nation’s oldest consumer organization).

Later in life. Hunter served as food editor for Consumers’ Research Bulletin. She wrote a number of articles for the magazine, including one in September 1974 on the rise of non-dairy creamers called, “Cream for your coffee?” In this article, Hunter raised concerns over the “nutritionally valueless” nature of these products, and called manufacturers to task for marketing non-dairy creamer chock full of coconut oil and sugar, and printing nearly unreadable ingredients lists on these products. She also noted the extensive use of non-natural chemicals such as anti-caking agents and others to ensure viscosity of the creamer.

Comparing the method of production of non-dairy creamers to “filled” or imitation milk products, Hunter concluded: “Consumers are led to believe, wrongly, that filled milk products are identical with, or even superior to, conventional milk products. In truth, they are not, and those who want and can readily digest milk should have a right to it, and not have to make do with something merely resembling it in appearance and color.”

Read The New York Times obituary on Beatrice Trum Hunter here.