• New to grocery store shelves and check-out lanes, the July-September 2001 issue of Health & You magazine, with a circulation of 900,000, is delivering to consumers the insights of Susan Nitzke of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, on the topic of nutrients. In the article “Five Nutrients You May Be Missing,” Nitzke is quoted as saying, “If you’re not eating green vegetables, it’s difficult to get enough vitamin K.” The article also notes that the body can make vitamin K from eggs, milk, and meat, while Nitzke warns that vitamin K can interfere with blood-thinning medications, so consultation with a physician is advised.
• In the June 6, 2001, issue of the Los Angeles Times, Michael Doyle of the University of Georgia, and James Marsden of Kansas State University, lent their expertise to the article, “The Bug That Ate The Burger,” a story chronicling the political hot potato that the battle against dangerous Escherichia coli O157:H7 has become. Doyle recalled the recorded outbreak of food-borne illness among customers of an Oregon fast-food restaurant in 1982. “The doctor who recognized it saw that these people all had this common syndrome of frank blood in their stools,” Doyle said. “No one died. There were no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome. It was almost viewed as a freak event.” Marsden brought perspective to the notion that fecal matter is on our food. The presence of E. coli O157:H7 doesn’t mean there’s excrement on our food, according to Marsden. “It’s not that simple,” he said. He explained it means minute bacteria are easily transferred from one surface to another, and a droplet the size of a tear can contain millions of bacteria. The Times circulates more than 1 million papers daily.
• Scripps Howard News Service ran a story on its wire service titled, “Spoils of Summer,” on the risk of food contamination by bacteria. A special attachment to that article, “Minimizing Food Risks,” relied heavily upon Mark Kantor of the University of Maryland. Kantor stressed that the globalization of food production and supply means Americans must become more savvy about proper food handling procedures. “No matter what we do in this country, you can’t control what other countries do,” he said. Kantor reminded readers that five years ago few people were aware of the risks of drinking un-pasteurized apple cider, or that bacteria can thrive on deli meats even while in the refrigerator. Newspapers subscribing to the Scripps Howard News Service include the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press, both of which published versions of these stories on May 17 and 18, 2001, respectively. Each circulates 140,000 papers daily.
• The expert perspective delivered by food technologist Charles Hollinger was just what the food editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was looking for in her article, “If It’s White, It Isn’t Chocolate,” published May 20, 2001. Hollinger, a featured speaker during a session at the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association, raised members’ awareness with his comment, “In order to make chocolate, you must add cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, any flavoring ingredients, sugar, milk powder, usually some salt and soy lecithin, and an emulsifier which allows the fat to mix with the milk powder for milk chocolate.” To be called chocolate, the ingredients must include chocolate liquor, he said, but white chocolate gets its subtle flavor from cocoa butter only. According to the article, it’s Hollinger’s opinion that mislabeling this confection as a chocolate is not as important as identifying inferior products. “Labeling something white chocolate is not as offensive as making a product and calling it chocolate but using other cheaper fats instead of cocoa butter,” he said. “Read the ingredient label, and if it contains other fats, it may not meet your expectations.” He warned readers that the product will be waxy and not melt evenly. The Sunday Post-Gazette circulates over 400,000 copies.
• The Denver Post didn’t have to look far to get an objective opinion for an article on labeling genetically modified foods, published May 29, 2001, on its Web site and re-posted May 30, 2001, on CNNfn.com. Pat Kendall of Colorado State University, told The Post, “[Consumers] want to know which foods are produced with genetic engineering and where they can find information.” Ultimately, Kendall said, choices shoppers make will determine what happens with labeling. “[Consumers] should vote with their dollars, whether it’s a food safety concern or an environment concern or a food choice concern,” she said. DenverPost.com attracts 500,000 unique visitors to its site each month who view 10 million pages. CNNfn.com acquired the story via the Knight Ridder wire service.
Newsmakers would like to acknowledge the comments made by Linda Harris of the University of California at Davis in an Associated Press article originally entitled, Grocers Want Inspections of Suppliers’ Foods. Focusing on efforts by supermarkets and restaurants to reduce risks of food-borne illnesses in the supply chain, the article was published in numerous daily newspapers around the country the first week of June. To date, approximately fifty print outlets with a total circulation surpassing three million copies have re-published the story.
by JAMES N. KLAPTHOR
Media Relations Manager