Stream It or Skip It?

Make a decision prior to playing Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food on Netflix. Do you want to come with an empty or full stomach? Because after learning about what goes into your food, you might not want to eat afterward.

The Gist: The safest food supply in the world, politicians and pundits pontificate to the point of absurdity in Poisoned (which draws a lot from Jeff Benedict’s 2023 book Poisoned: The The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat). But dating back to a deadly E. coli outbreak in 1993 and continuing through to this day, cracks in the system have put the American consumer at grave risk of contracting deadly illnesses from their food. 48 million people get sick each year from foodborne illnesses, and some aren’t so lucky to get away with just an upset stomach. From the processes and oversights that contaminate food to the human damage done by lax regulations that shifts the burden onto people rather than corporations, this documentary captures it all.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: If you can think all the way back to 2009, the documentary Food, Inc. also tackled similar challenges where consumers paid the price for corporations cutting corners.

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Performance Worth Watching: While he’s not performing much other than his job, Bill Marler makes for a great focal point of Poisoned. In his 30 years of fighting for food safety as a lawyer, the fire in his belly to protect the average person remains ablaze – and inspiring.

Marion Nestle in 'Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food.'
Photo: Netflix

Memorable Dialogue: “In this country,” a lab scientist tells the documentary crew, “if you buy poultry from any grocery store, regardless of the brand of poultry that you buy, your primary assumption should be it contains pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter.” GULP!

Sex and Skin: The only skin you’re seeing here is on some meat being cooked to temperature for the safety of the eater!

Our Take: Stephanie Soechtig’s issue-based political documentaries are paint-by-numbers affairs, but Poisoned is a reminder that she can work with a vivid set of colors within those familiar lines. Where the format might lull you into complacency, the content will jolt you out of it. The film’s revelations about the example that went unheeded – regulations around hamburger beef that helped prevent all further E. coli outbreaks following – will fill you with rage at how you’ve been left exposed to great sickness. She directs anger toward the institutions and systems that enable loose regulation of our food supply. Perhaps this is done simplistically, but it’s definitely done effectively.

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Our Call: STREAM IT! Poisoned will leave you aghast – and thinking twice before adding a cantaloupe or bagged salad to your grocery cart. You’ll come away from this documentary educated, enraged, and equipped with a practical toolkit to protect yourself.

Marshall Shaffer is a New York-based freelance film journalist. In addition to Decider, his work has also appeared on Slashfilm, Slant, The Playlist and many other outlets. Some day soon, everyone will realize how right he is about Spring Breakers.

Watch Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food on Netflix


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