James N. Klapthor

Efforts by Bruce Watkins, Purdue University, to direct teenagers toward the subject of food science were rewarded not only by educators but also by news media around the nation. Requested by the National Science Teachers Association and distributed to hundreds of its members, Watkins’ CD-ROM project, The Pizza Explorer, funded by IFT, became a news story published and republished in outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Oklahoman, Seattle Post Intelligencer, San Jose (CA) Mercury News, and The News Journal of Daytona Beach, Fla. Those five newspapers account for a daily circulation approaching 1.5-million. At least a dozen more newspapers also ran the story, as did the Chronicle of Higher Education, the weekly journal for academicians and higher education administrators with a circulation of 95,000.

Proving that a great story can have shelf life rivaling a can of Spam, news of The Pizza Explorer spread to television during the second week of December, with word of Watkins’ cyber-pizza spread by news anchors on national network affiliates in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Omaha, the nation’s 4th-, 26th-, 30th-, and 75th-largest television markets. The five-o’ clock news segment on WPVI-TV ABC Channel 6 in Philadelphia drew an audience of 330,000. And nearly one month later, on January 8, the NBC Radio affiliate in that city, KYW-AM 1060, ran a one-minute feature on The Pizza Explorer.

When most television news sources are predictably offering consumers innovations in preparing holiday dishes, CNN Headline News was surprisingly attracted to french fry research by an IFT member north of the border. On December 18, Headline News aired a report on Martin Scanlon, University of Manitoba, and what reporter Jennifer Tyron called “his quest for the perfect french fry.” According to Scanlon, “the story [highlighted] our use of models from engineering structures to model the textural ‘performance’ of french fries.” Scanlon’s research made Canada’s CTV News the previous day.

Staying on the subject of french fries, Kansas City’s KCTV-TV CBS Channel 5 aired a two-minute report during its noon and five-o’clock newscasts noting research on potato-less fries made of rice by Ranjit Kadan, USDA-ARS, New Orleans. Not only did reporter Kelli Miller include commentary by Kadan, but she also asked and aired the opinion of Mark Kantor, University of Maryland, who noted that this snack would help consumers eat less fat. KCTV had 134,000 viewers tune in to this December 26 News 5 at Five newscast.

Also on December 26, the Chicago Tribune article, “Produce industry, and its watchdogs, concentrate on the safety of salads,” utilized extensive commentary by Michael Doyle, University of Georgia, and Richard Daniels, Audits International, on the subject of lettuce and prepackaged salads. “Major processors are peeling and coring in the field. They are taking the first step of processing in the field, where your floor is dirt, where we know there’s listeria and possibly other pathogens in the soil,” Doyle said. “I know they spray water in there,” he commented, “but when you open it [a head of lettuce] up, it’s like us bleeding–it’s a wound. You’re allowing whatever could get into the center to migrate within the interior of the lettuce.” Daniels cited concerns of foodborne illness occurring in consumers’ refrigerators that are often overlooked. “People don’t think about safety at home,” said Daniels, “Twenty percent of refrigerators are too warm” and should be kept below 41ºF. Storing lettuce under meat should also be avoided, he said. “Eventually the chicken is going to bleed onto the lettuce.” The Chicago Tribune has a circulation of 660,000. The Knight-Ridder news service distributed the story.

Reuters news service was attracted to research by Richard Mattes, Purdue University, who recently published results on fatty food tests. In the December 6 article, “Taste, Not Smell, of Fat Foods Lures Eaters,” Mattes said, “Taste is the stimulus that causes the rise in blood fat levels.” Thus, he said, “the taste, and not the smell, is what the body is responding to.” The article also noted that if Mattes’ fat findings are confirmed, science may have to add fat to the list of flavors human palates can detect. Reuters provides news content to outlets throughout the United States and the world, including 900 online news sources.

Media Relations Manager