The pace of the news placements in 2006 has been fast, and IFT members should rest assured that topics involving food science are of keen interest to the news media and will likely continue that way for the foreseeable future.
For example, avian flu—a food-related issue only indirectly—will assure this, as bovine spongiform encephalopathy—"mad cow disease)"—did with its reappearance last month in a 10-year-old Alabama cow.
As he did in late 2004, when mad cow first hit the American market, Dean Cliver, University of California, got busy this March. The NBC television affiliate in San Francisco dialed up Cliver as its local food virus expert and requested his opinion on the latest positive test.
Cliver’s message to the Bay area audience was confident: U.S. beef is safe, no brain or spinal cord tissue is used for food, and it’s very rare for humans to become afflicted with the disease. More than 120,000 viewers saw this lead story on March 13 on KNTV Channel 11 during its 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts.
The next morning, readers of the Los Angeles Times were greeted with Cliver’s insight in the front section of the nation’s fourth-largest daily newspaper. While the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture announced its intention to attempt to track the animal’s offspring, Cliver relayed that there is no evidence that the disease can be passed through gestation. The Los Angeles Times has a daily circulation of nearly one million.
About one week earlier, on March 6, the scientific perspective of chocolate as a health food made news in Los Angeles. Mars, Inc., and its CocoaVia line of dark chocolates was the topic—specifically, its label claim to consumers as a "heart healthy" food, attributed to the flavonols, plant sterols, and soy contained therein. Label claims is a topic that cuts to the heart of recent conclusions in IFT’s March 2005 Expert Report on Functional Foods (http://members.ift.org/IFT/Research/IFTExpertReports/functionalfoods_report.htm), and the Los Angeles Times called on Roger Clemens, University of Southern California, a Food Technology contributing editor and member of the expert panel that prepared the report, to comment.
"Mars has made the effort and spent the money to actually do the clinical studies to see if it works," Clemens told the newspaper. "I think that is the approach food companies must take to substantiate their position as more health foods enter this market called ‘functional foods.’"
And Food Technology once again has made its own headlines, as the January cover story, "What, When, and Where America Eats," made the rounds of the popular press. Coverage of that article and the data within it appeared in dozens of news outlets nationwide during the first three months of the year. It appeared in newspapers in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Denver, San Antonio, and elsewhere, and has been featured on television and radio broadcasts in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. As recently as March 22, the issue was featured during a newscast on cable Superstation WGN-TV Channel 9. Locally, more than 100,000 viewers were tuned in.
What America eats is not the only IFT-originating information making the rounds of United States news outlets. In February, Scripps Howard News Service reported on a study of USDA data on nutrient level changes in fruits and vegetables over the past half-century. The service asked Al Bushway, University of Maine, to comment on the study and wrote that this nutritional loss could be made up through other foods that Americans eat.
"For vegans only using plant sources for food, this could be an issue," Bushway was quoted as saying. He said most Americans would pick up adequate quantities of calcium, for example, by drinking milk. Fruits and vegetables, he added, "are an important part of the diet—extremely important." With reporters based in Washington D.C., Scripps Howard News Service provides content to many daily newspapers and broadcast stations throughout the nation. Bushway’s comments have been published in newspapers in New York, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and elsewhere.
With the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo® fast approaching and no end to the interest in avian flu on the horizon, chances are good that IFT will continue to add to the popular dialogue on food topics.
by James N. Klapthor,
Media Relations Manager