Josh Sosland: Defending against false assertions more important than ever

by Josh Sosland
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Among threats looming for grain-based foods in 2010, none appears more menacing than the potential backlash against the industry in the wake of ever heightening concerns about obesity.

Health and wellness is hardly a new issue, but government action, such as California’s ban of trans fats are steadily gaining momentum. With the health care legislation debate moving slowly toward its conclusion in Congress and new dietary guidelines looming this year, additional regulatory and legislative initiatives aimed at reducing obesity appear likely.

What’s always been scary about the issue is its complexity combined with the mind-blowing ignorance prevailing about the subject. A case in point was an interview last week on The Daily Show of Michael Pollan, an author considered in some circles a “thought leader” around issues of food. In the course of a five-minute interview, Mr. Pollan framed a conversation likening the smoking and eating issues by pointing out Philip Morris owns Kraft Foods.

“They are manipulating you to eat more,” he said. “…The same lawyers are involved.” Of course, Philip Morris (Altria is the accurate corporate name) hasn’t owned Kraft for many years and tobacco company ownership of food companies is probably at a 50-year low. He went on to say Americans get 20% of their calories from high-fructose corn syrup (actual figure — less than 7%) and that Americans consume 240 lbs of sugar per year (that would be approaching 1 lb per day, or roughly 60% of total caloric intake — the actual figure is about 40 lbs for sugar, less than 100 lbs all caloric sweeteners).

Interviews like this one and a host of “diet month” news media stories are a jarring reminder that in 2010, grain-based foods needs to be more vigilant than ever in defending against false assertions regarding its products. Simultaneously, meaningful and visible steps must be taken where possible and appropriate to further enhance the nutritional profile of products.

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