Gaesser appearance on Oz a true coup for baking, G.F.F.

by Josh Sosland
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For those who do not watch much daytime television, presumably just about everyone reading this column, some context may be helpful to the news that Glenn Gaesser has landed an appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Mehmet Oz, a surgeon and television personality, has attracted attention from baking in the past (including rapid responses from the Grain Foods Foundation) for statements critical of enriched grains, or “refined carbohydrates” as he would have it. Thus it may be asked, is appearance by Dr. Gaesser, long the principal scientific spokesperson for the Grain Foods Foundation, a big deal? In short, yes!

As of mid-September, “The Dr. Oz Show” was the most popular daytime talk show on television. Formerly the health expert on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Dr. Oz inherited the largest number of timeslots from Oprah when that wildly successful show ended.

For grain-based foods, there is good reason to believe the demographic profile of the typical Dr. Oz viewer is appealing — young mothers. More than just being about numbers, Dr. Oz has not shied away from controversy and is not a rigid follower of scientific orthodoxy. It’s a point that rightly causes nervousness in the food industry since so many of his shows (including last Friday’s, his 400th) deal with obesity and nutrition.

He recently created a furor when he claimed arsenic levels in apple juice were too high. The Food and Drug Administration flatly denied the claim, but news reports indicated at least one school district removed apple juice from its cafeteria menu in response to the Oz show.

The segment with Dr. Gaesser already has been filmed but may not be aired until December. Dr. Gaesser has said he was able to make the point during filming that a strong body of evidence shows obesity rates are lowest among those whose diets are most heavily tilted toward carbohydrates. Precisely how much coverage grains will receive and exactly how they will be portrayed in the final version of the show remains to be seen. But at a time of some soul searching regarding the benefits of product promotion by baking, it is difficult to overstate the value to the industry of finding such a wonderful way to assure its collective voice is not silenced.

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