Food Coverage Gets Squeezed
It should come as no great surprise that content dedicated to food-related topics in United States news outlets has been squeezed by other matters deemed more timely by news media. Primary elections have come and gone, and general election campaigning is gearing up, as is the complexity of the U.S. and allied nations’ efforts to reconcile the war in Iraq and defend against regular attacks of terrorism.
These and other matters have been provided extensive exposure within the media, and rightfully so. But by comparison, daily updates on the occurrence of, and resolution to, mad cow disease in the U.S. cattle system have been nearly eliminated. The topic of obesity has maintained its foothold in the news—although information published has been long on hypothesis and rhetoric while short on science facts—but has shared its space with food safety, nutrition, and product trend issues—areas where IFT-member experts have been busy.
Food Science Communicator Charles Santerre, Purdue University, who’s been serving as national spokesperson for IFT for the past year, implemented sound communication techniques and reaped its rewards April 16 when USA Today published the article, “Fish still a good health bet.” A good portion of the article was dedicated to the various warnings—some sound, some not—tagged onto fish consumption during the past year. But rather than re-address weak claims or bring undue attention to scare tactics utilized by others, Santerre and Joan Rothenberg, International Food Information Council, operating separately, focused on the positive. This provided the article sufficient content focused on the nutritional benefits of fish that’s often been overlooked in much of the food safety coverage.
The article touted the healthful benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that are conspicuous in salmon, both farm-raised and wild, and the high-protein, low-fat ratio of tuna. Said Rothenberg: “You don’t want people to become so concerned so that they eliminate fish from their diet.” At the article’s conclusion, Santerre focused on a survey of low-income women of childbearing years that revealed that one-third of respondents haven’t eaten any fish over the past year. “To me, that’s a much greater concern,” than eating too much fish, he said, because they are missing out on important health benefits.
Mary Ellen Camire, University of Maine, added to the discussion in an earlier edition of the San Jose Mercury News. In a “Fish Q-n-A” article published on March 17, Camire said that some researchers consider omega-3 fatty acids to be a wonder food. “They play a role in proper brain development of the fetus, help prevent premature births and are important in the health of infants,” she said.
USA Today boasts 6.5 million daily readers across its print and Web platforms. San Jose Mercury News circulates 276,000 papers daily.
Clarification of a food safety topic with a targeted home consumer perspective was published with IFT-member insight on March 31 in The Sacramento Bee, one of California’s largest daily newspapers. In the article “Myth Match,” Christine Bruhn, University of California at Davis, informed readers that it is inadvisable to reheat food in a microwave using foam take-out containers. Not only can the container collapse, but also chemicals in the foam that are not intended to be eaten can leach into the food. “If the food has fat . . .like spaghetti sauce, and it is heated higher than 112 degrees, the container can warp or melt, which might allow chemicals to migrate into the food,” she said. And weakened containers “could cause burns when you pick them up.”
Bruhn’s comments were circulated to the 300,000 daily readers of The Bee.
You may have read in the April issue of Food Technology the exhaustive review, “The Top 10 Functional Food Trends 2004” by A. Elizabeth Sloan. If so, you weren’t alone. Through the promotion of the article and the comprehensive content contained therein, other news outlets spread the word on the latest functional food news from the Food Technology perspective. WebMD, the online medical self-help site, published its own synopsis of the article, providing 18-million new readers—WebMD’s monthly audience—access to IFT knowledge. Via a content-sharing agreement with one of the world’s largest Internet portals, the WebMD article was republished in the Women section of MSN.com.
by JAMES N. KLAPTHOR
Media Relations Manager