Food Scientists Are People, Too
Rare is the consumer-oriented article that focuses on a food scientist and not John or Jane Q. Shopper or a popular or heavily promoted book author. But that’s just what the Orlando Sentinel published on January 11—a food safety article focusing on the lunch choices made by IFT Food Science Communicator Jean Weese, Auburn University.

Like so many others around the country, Weese and her colleagues recently sat down to a meal while contemplating news of hepatitis A foodborne outbreaks, PCBs, dioxin in farmed salmon, and the discovery of mad cow disease in Washington state. Weese didn’t swear off any of these menu items, according to the article, and she urged that consumers don’t either. “People get leery of the food supply without knowing all the details,” Weese said. “No one is panicking, but only a small percentage are paying attention.”

In the article, IFT member and food scientist Doug Archer, University of Florida, reminded readers that the American food supply is the safest and cheapest in the world. Comments by Weese closed the article by saying, “I think people flip out over things that are not necessary. One-hundred-fifty-seven people worldwide have gotten BSE. We’ve had that many people very sick with E. coli in Alabama in the last ten years.” The Sunday issue of the Orlando Sentinel reaches more than 360,000 readers.

Earlier in the month and much father up the Atlantic coast, the topic of mad cow disease and the issue of food safety appeared in a January article in The Washington Post and was republished in New York’s Newsday newspaper, utilizing commentary by Maribeth Cousin, Purdue University. Responding simply and succinctly to the question, “Are consumers overreacting by avoiding ground beef because it might be infected?” Cousin said, “I would be more worried about getting the flu this winter than getting mad cow disease,.” The Washington Post circulates nearly 800,000 papers daily; Newsday reaches a half-million readers.

Also in Newsday and the same January 6 edition, Joanne Slavin, University of Minnesota, lent her perspective to an article promoting the healthful benefits of flaxseed. “Personally, I like flax because it has lots of different components that could help your health,” she said. She also said that lignans and other flaxseed ingredients may have antioxidant properties, reducing the activity of cell-damaging free radicals. She noted, however, that flaxseed oil spoils quickly and cannot be used for frying.

Newsday is one of many news outlets in which Slavin’s expertise has been utilized. Others include the February issue of the national magazine Muscle & Fitness Hers, which included Slavin’s assessment of grains on good health in the article “Big Fat ½ Truths.” Responding to the notion that fruits and vegetables are the best source of antioxidants, she reminded readers that whole grains are also an important source of antioxidants, and that antioxidants in a slice of whole-grain bread are different from those in an orange. The recommendation: incorporate lots of produce and grains into the diet. Muscle & Fitness Hers is published ten times a year and has a circulation of 250,000.

Slavin wasn’t the only IFT Food Science Communicator to gain ink in a popular consumer-oriented fitness publication. Elizabeth Kunkle, Clemson University, lent commentary to an article in Men’s Fitness on making informed shopping decisions. Regarding juice selection, she reminded readers that juice cocktail and juice drink are not the same as juice; only the latter has no added sugar. Probably more revealing to readers was her comment, “Just because juice has pulp doesn’t make it healthier or higher in fiber [content].” Men’s Fitness is published monthly and read by nearly 700,000 readers.

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  1. Food Safety and Defense