The Institute of Food Technologists and the Food Science Communicators who represent it in news coverage are exceeding beyond projections the rate of inquiries from journalists for food science expertise. Compared to 2001, inquiries grew by 6.5% in 2002 and by 11% in the first half of 2003.
Now updated through mid-November, the pace of requests by journalists seeking IFT perspective remains noteworthy despite great media attention on the worldwide SARS scare, the war against Iraq, the resulting reconstruction of Iraq’s government, and the surreal infotainment story of an Austrian-born Hollywood star’s ascent to the governorship of California.
Under such conditions, it could be generally anticipated that much interest in food science expertise could be terminated by newsrooms forced to dedicate more time, effort, and space to unrelated content. Yet, IFT’s presence grew. IFT has so far in 2003 responded to an all-time high of 279 requests by journalists for food science expertise.
This translates to daily requests originating from myriad outlets: national print outlets, major regional newspapers and major television network affiliates, major broadcast and Internet news sites, and others.
They include the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which on Halloween Day solicited IFT expertise on virus transmission via food and printed the perspective of Dean O. Cliver, University of California at Davis and author of IFT’s 1997 Scientific Status Summary on the subject. In the November 7 edition, Cliver urged routine hepatitis A vaccinations for children but said that it’s unlikely to become routine for that group or for food workers. “The American public isn’t willing to pay more for food or taxes, and those are two ways you could pay for immunizations of people who work with food.” The Journal-Constitution is the largest newspaper in the Southeast, circulating 419,000 copies.
The Detroit Free Press requested and received IFT insight on the exciting and developing world of food innovation and product development, publishing an extensive feature on the subject utilizing the commentary of Manfred Kroger, Pennsylvania State University, Fred Caporaso, Chapman University, and Mark Uebersax, Michigan State University. The eager and exhaustive participation by each expert resulted in a comprehensive, behind-the-scenes feature highlighting the food science department at MSU in East Lansing. The October 14 article, “Scientists offer peek into world of future food,” made it to the doorsteps and easy chairs of 383,000 readers to which the paper is circulated daily. It was also uploaded to the Knight Ridder-Tribune Business News wire for distribution to and by other subscribing news outlets, and included perspective by four other IFT members—Zey Ustunol, Aziz Awad, Perry Ng, and Janice Harte.
In late October, WebMD.com contacted and received expertise from IFT in the form of food science perspective provided by Mary Ellen Camire, University of Maine, resulting in the November 3 online article, “The low down on low-carb products.” Answering the simple question of what goes in when the carbs go out, Camire enlightened readers on the ingredients sorbitol, maltitol, and lactitol. “They have a very similar chemical structure as sugar, but they have alcohol attached,” said Camire. “The drawback is because they have alcohol, they’re really good at attracting water,” she told WebMD. “Eat too much, those alcohols pull water into your gut . . . and then you end up with diarrhea.” WebMD reaches an online audience of 18 million visitors monthly.
These accomplishments by Food Science Communicators responding to recent news queries redirected from IFT headquarters does not include the effort by IFT Past President Mark McLellan. Responding to a request made through Texas A&M University by CBS Television seeking insight on fast-food developments, McLellan told an estimated 8 million viewers tuned into the November 4 CBS Evening News with Dan Rather report that fast-food companies would not be in business if they didn’t listen to their customers. He called the ever-elusive great-tasting French fry that’s also healthy the “Holy Grail” of the fast-food business. Perhaps driving CBS to A&M was McLellan’s same comment on the same subject published in the Baltimore Sun on September 26. The Sun circulates 300,000 papers daily.
by JAMES N. KLAPTHOR
Media Relations Manager
E-mail: [email protected]