G.F.F. counters grains claims by Oprah's Dr. Oz

by Josh Sosland
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RIDGWAY, COLO. — As part of the group’s Rapid Response program, the Grain Foods Foundation took several steps this week to counter critical remarks about enriched grains made on a popular daytime television show.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, who appears regularly on The Oprah Winfrey Show, appeared on the Jan. 6 program and shared with viewers his "five foods to avoid" — including enriched grains, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, trans fat and saturated fat. Dr. Oz is vice-chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University.

Dieting frequently receives greater media attention, and the Oprah show is showcasing the issue because Ms. Winfrey recently gained 40 lbs and has been discussing her weight gain and strategy for weight reduction publicly. The coverage has extended beyond her show, with Dr. Oz and Bob Greene, Ms. Winfrey’s trainer, interviewed that evening on Larry King Live.

The Grain Foods Foundation took advantage of Folic Acid Awareness Week in crafting its response. Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, a registered and licensed dietician and founder of Hispanic Food Communications Inc., sent a letter to the executive producer of Ms. Winfrey’s show, countering Dr. Oz’s remarks.

"I disagree with his comments suggesting that consumers avoid products made from enriched flour, such as white bread," she said. "His implied assertion that enriched grains provide little or no nutritional benefit is incorrect."

Ms. Melendez-Klinger went on to note the importance of folic acid for women of child-bearing age, particularly Hispanic women, who are twice as likely as non-Hispanics to have a baby with a birth defect.

Ms. Melendez-Klinger, who is a member of the foundation’s scientific advisory board member, also wrote a letter to the press on the subject. The letter was co-signed by Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation, and Janis Biermann, senior vice-president of education and health promotion for the March of Dimes.

Kristin Patterson, vice-president and account director of Mullen, said the foundation worked closely with the American Bakers Association before determining that Ms. Melendez-Klinger would spearhead the response.

"We’ve also reached out to our partners at the March of Dimes and the National Folic Acid Council," Ms. Patterson said. "Both organizations have agreed to issue similar responses to the producers at Oprah in an effort to correct these perceptions about enriched grains."

Rapid response is one of the principal activities of the Grain Foods Foundation.

"It is important that we have a voice in the media that rapidly counters negative message about our product," Ms. Adams said. "Before the foundation was established, far too many negative and false statements about our products were widely disseminated and largely or completely unchallenged."

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