James N. Klapthor

The new year has ushered in new interest in food irradiation among journalists, greatly attributed to the inclusion of irradiated beef on supermarket store shelves and into federal school lunch programming. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution refers to these advancements in irradiated food as “inching its way into the American diet” in its January 11 article, “Irradiated meat due in area stores.” To support the article the Journal-Constitution called upon its local IFT expert to provide insight and perspective, and commentary that no single food processing technique is a magic bullet for safety. “Just because [ground beef] is irradiated doesn’t mean all pathogens have been eliminated,” said Michael Doyle, University of Georgia. This was the second time in two months the Journal-Constitution utilized IFT and an IFT expert in a food-related article. In December, in its article entitled “Party Shrimp,” the newspaper referred to IFT’s Expert Report on Emerging Microbiological Foodborne Safety Issues when addressing the application of chicken manure as fertilizer for some farm-raised shrimp. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution circulates over 400,000 newspapers daily, and is the widest read daily paper in the Deep South.

Also in December, IFT member Bob Hutkins, University of Nebraska, was the lead resource in a column published on the consumer news Internet site, MSN.com, “When Good Food Goes Bad.” Hutkins message was clear and concise. “Spoilage is nature’s way of saying, ‘Hey stupid! Don’t eat that,’” he said. The holidays are high time for the problem of food spoilage, an opinion the article attributed to Hutkins, as undercooked turkey and stuffing or raw egg use in eggnog can cause considerable sickness. “Life is full of risks and benefits,” said Hutkins, “and for me [eating raw food is] simply not worth the risk.” MSN.com is one of the world’s leading sources of information as MicroSoft Corp.’s consumer Web portal.

Not to be out-hustled for a good consumer news story, ABCNews.com, through its content sharing arrangement with HealthScoutNews.com ran the New Year story, “Food of the Future: Healthier, Safer . . . Tastier” on its Web site January 1. It relied solely on information provided by IFT and this publication. The article suggested food science research in 2003 will focus largely on safety and techniques to protect against disease and terrorism, claims made by editors of IFT journals in the December issue of Food Technology and promoted to news media. Michael Doyle predicted new treatments to kill germs on heat-sensitive and minimally processed foods, while Manfred Kroger, Pennsylvania State University, sensed sensory evaluations will continue, “because we prefer to eat what we like.” HealthScoutNews.com attracts over 1 million unique visitors per month to its Web site, while ABCNews.com boasts 3.5 million unique visitors over the same period.

In November, IFT issued a news release stating that organic foods are not safer nor more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. This action has kept Carl Winter, University of California at Davis, a food toxicologist, busy answering journalists’ seemingly never-ending questions. He’s been quoted in consumer and trade publications based in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, and other states. And he was quoted by Well and Healthy Woman online magazine in its January article, “The New (Improved?) Organic.” From Winter’s perspective, the answer to the question of whether to buy organic is dependent upon what consumers think they are buying. “If you think organic foods are safer and more nutritious, there is really no evidence to support that,” Winter was quoted. Added Barry Swanson, Washington State University, “People assume that organic products have a greater nutrient density or fewer adverse effects from additives. But there is no evidence to support that organic products have any increased nutritional benefits.” Winter concluded with a perspective that was well received by many journalists with whom he’s spoken, as proven by its inclusion in many articles. “Eat fruits and vegetables, regardless of the source,” he advised, “Don’t let limited access to variety or increased costs of organic products limit your overall consumption of fruits and vegetables.” Well and Healthy Woman magazine serves 30,000 registered users as a consumer-oriented online publication of Food Sciences Corp., which develops and manufactures nutritional products marketed to women.

Newsmakers would be remiss without mentioning the service of Bruce Watkins, Purdue University, and his efforts to produce and promote the food science CD-ROM The Pizza Explorer. It’s been over one year since Watkins and word of the learning tool began appearing in major publications and broadcast outlets coast-to-coast, and still there’s life left in the project among news media. On January 30 the Hartford Courant ran a small feature highlighting The Pizza Explorer, reaching its 200,000 daily readers. The article was reprinted from one originally published in January 2002 in the Chicago Tribune.

Media Relations Manager