It should come as no surprise that IFT was productive in placing scientific opinion on food-related topics into major news media outlets during 2002. With the publication and release of its Expert Report on Microbiological Food Safety Issues, the strength of another IFT Annual Meeting & FOOD EXPO®, and the ever-present arrival of controversial food issues, there was ample opportunity to bring IFT perspective to the mass media, and thus, the public at-large.
As detailed monthly in this column during the past year, IFT science and insight by its Food Science Communicators and members has been featured in such notable news outlets as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today, news wire services Associated Press, Reuters and Scripps Howard, and television outlets such as CNN and Big Four network affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and others. In less than 11 months of confirmed monitoring during 2002, IFT, its science, its experts, and its members were included in more than 1,000 articles, columns, listings, or broadcasts related to food science within nearly 700 news sources nationwide and overseas.
As readers know, each month this column highlights the best-of-the-best; the highest-profile, widest-distributed coverage of IFT perspective from the most recent publications and broadcasts. However, this year-end version of the monthly column will update other significant exposure that was recorded but not previously reported here.
This fall, John Allred, Ohio State University, provided his scientific opinion to a Marie Claire magazine article on organic foods and toxicity concerns. Eating enormous amounts of produce will not put consumers at risk of pesticide damage, he affirmed. “The U.S. EPA and FDA have tested conventional food pesticides and set the maximum usage at 1,000 times below established, safe levels.” Allred urged eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, organically or conventionally grown, to get the benefits from fiber and antioxidants. The article was reprinted by the Kansas City Star in September. The Star circulates more than a quarter-million papers daily, while Marie Claire circulates over 800,000 issues monthly.
These same sentiments were relayed to the readers of the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press-Democrat by Carl Winter, University of California at Davis, in an October issue. “Scientifically, there is no evidence . . . organic food is safer than conventionally grown food,” said Winter. “Consumers shouldn’t be as concerned about the origins of their produce as making it available to their families in plentiful supplies.” The Press-Democrat has a daily circulation of nearly 100,000.
Also in October, the Portland, Ore., bureau of the Associated Press drew upon the food law expertise of Tom Zinnen, University of Wisconsin, for its article on the often volatile topic of biotech food labeling. In anticipation of the November ballot measure that would force all modern genetically engineered foods produced or sold in the state to be labeled, Zinnen explained the complexity of creating a label. “Labels have to meet two tests; they must be truthful and not misleading. So coming up with a label that informs but not misleads . . . is going to be a difficult challenge.” The measure was defeated by Oregon voters.
Earlier in the year, a massive ground beef recall originating in Colorado sent reporters scurrying for up-to-date information on Escherichia coli. Patricia Kendall, Colorado State University, hit the media jackpot by having a consumer-friendly question-and-answer session with the Rocky Mountain News food editor published in August. “E. coli is on the surface of meat and not within the muscle,” she said. “When you grind the meat for hamburger, you’re grinding the outside into the interior of the meat . . . so you’re not going to reach it (E. Coli) to kill it if you don’t cook the inside to 160 degrees.” Kendall responded to the seemingly increasing number of beef recalls with, “Some of it has to do with the fact that we know more about [E. coli].” The Rocky Mountain News is Denver’s largest daily newspaper, circulating 320,000 copies daily.
One month prior, an issue of The Washington Times provided an editorial penned by Jean Weese, Auburn University, titled “A dyspeptic take on terrorism.” In it, Weese stated that a significant line of defense against food terrorism is America’s state-of-the-art food inspection system. “HACCP is based on a simple concept,” she wrote: “The fewer people coming in contact with the food, the better.” The Times has a daily circulation of about 50,000.
Even business news outlets needed the food science perspective to tell their stories. The weekly San Diego Business Journal called upon John Rushing, North Carolina State University, to familiarize its readers on the topic of genomics. Said Rushing, “One of the hottest things [in food development] is nutrition-enhanced foods. Genomics has given us an opportunity to pursue . . . foods that have nutrient or therapeutic advantages.” San Diego Business Journal distributes more than 20,000 copies.
by JAMES N. KLAPTHOR
Media Relations Manager