Race for the White House Does Not Slow IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists is pleased to report that interest by the news media to cover food-science topics appears as high as ever. Mad cow disease is still on reporters’ radar with two cases in Canada recently confirmed. Product reformulation in the wake of trans fat reduction pronouncements, now two years old, is also keeping journalists jumping. And the rate at which journalists seek out IFT is a reliable source of expert opinion is equally strong.

At the time of this writing, and for the third consecutive year, news media have increasingly come knocking on IFT’s door. The rate in 2004 was 5% higher than in 2003, which was 13% greater than for 2002, fueled in great part by the first positive test of bovine spongiform encephalopathy–infected cattle in the United States in December 2003.

Meanwhile, the national presidential election and the resulting administrative cabinet changes that dominated headlines during the final quarter of the year “squeezed” food coverage in 2004. This competition for space in the daily newspapers and on the nightly television news was not unlike the fight for space in 2002 with Enron and Andersen scandals and sniper attacks near Washington D.C., and in 2003 with SARS scares and the war in Iraq.

Through it all, food science and IFT have persevered.

In early November 2004, the New York Times penned what’s become an obligatory holiday-time feature on turkey safety. The new angle to the old story was proposed federal guidelines urging consumers to resist washing the bird. Instead, consumers should take the bird directly from the bag and place it in the oven, eliminating the likelihood of cross-contamination with other kitchen surfaces.

Fergus Clydesdale, University of Massachusetts, supported the recommendations. “The risk of cross-contamination through washing poultry is far greater than shoving it in the oven without washing it, which makes the risk almost zero,” he said. Linda Harris, University of California at Davis, informed readers that brining the bird—as a cook in the article prescribed—can slow bacteria growth, but does not kill it. And when the holidays mean that large volumes of food and family are crossing paths in the kitchen, Harris said, “I just don’t believe people are that good,” about meticulous sanitation. The Times circulates 1.2 million papers daily.

Also in November, but on the opposite coast, Roger Clemens, University of Southern California, lent his perspective to the new diet wave to hit the consciousness of consumers: dairy food for weight loss. In an early evening newscast on KNBC-TV Ch. 4, Clemens brought scientific insight to the weight-loss claims offered by dieters interviewed for the feature.

“When one consumes at least three servings of low-fat dairy products every day, there’s a greater likelihood to be able to maintain lower body weight,” he explained to the station’s Chief Medical Editor Bruce Hansel. “You don’t make as much fat, and you actually break down fat, which is really quite interesting, and if you want a weight reduction diet, that’s exactly what you want to see happen.”

The final word: “Do your exercise, have a reasonable diet and include three servings of low-fat dairy foods a day,” Clemens offered. “Chances are you’ll be healthier for it and you can manage your weight a little bit better.” KNBC-TV boasts the third-rated five o’clock newscast in America’s second-largest market. More than 300,000 viewers tuned in to the broadcast.

Finally, on November 25, IFT President Herbert Stone and Colleen Zammer, Tiax, spoke coast-to-coast on National Public Radio and its Marketplace program, addressing the topic of food research and development. Zammer emphasized the importance food companies are placing on reducing trans fats from products, estimating that it will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars for one category of products to be switched over from traditional formulation to a trans fat–free formulation.” Said Stone, “Clearly, the biggest emphasis today is health-related . . . trying to incorporate into products more health benefits in terms of vitamins, minerals, amino acids.”

Marketplace airs on approximately 300 public radio stations, and claims a weekly audience of more than 7 million listeners.

Media Relations Manager
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