Grain campaign to counter negative press

by Emily Buckley
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PARKER, COLORADO, U.S. — Following a turbulent year of reacting to the media’s obsession with high-protein diets, "carb-bashing," anti-refined-grain food stories, and tactics to blame carbohydrate-based foods for America’s obesity problem, the Wheat Foods Council has announced an aggressive campaign to restore the image of grain-foods in 2003-04.

"The Great Grain Campaign" communication program will counter anti-carbohydrate stories by promoting positive science and research on carbohydrates and capturing attention with the look and feel of a political campaign, the Council said.

Carol Pratt, associate director of Nutrition & Regulatory Affairs at the Kellogg Company, will lead the pro-carbohydrate movement as the new chair of the Wheat Foods Council. "Our industry needs to strike as hard as our opponents have and to do so will require the industry to stand together to communicate the truth about carbohydrates. The Wheat Foods Council provides the expertise and avenue to accomplish this task," said Pratt.

Wheat producers, millers, bakers and food manufacturers have committed U.S.$862,000 this year to the council to represent the grain-foods industry in promoting the nutritional benefits of grain-foods.

A recent attack on grain based foods came from a surprising source: FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan recently spoke at the "National Food Policy Conference" co-sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and TIAX LLC. His presentation left the impression that the Food Guide Pyramid does not provide consumers the best recommendations for healthful eating. Additionally, he took the opportunity to discuss research overseen by Harvard’s Dr. Walter Willett and suggested his, along with other research, shows that following the Food Guide Pyramid does not provide better health.

Over the past few years, Willett’s research has received considerable attention from the media. Due to the significance of McClellan’s comments and concern for the popularity of Willett’s work, Wheat Foods Council President Judi Adams wrote a strongly worded letter to Dr. McClellan, in which she said his comments only served to discredit the USDA and HHS Food Guide Pyramid. "This is a disservice, not only to the American public, but to other government agencies who have worked long and hard to promulgate the best possible nutrition advice," the letter said.

Adams demonstrated how Dr. Willett’s Nurses’ Health Study research fell short of being authoritative and "high quality," since Willett never made his data available for peer review, the research sample does not represent the general population, and because statistics show the Food Guide Pyramid is not responsible for obesity, as Willett claims.

"The USDA estimates less than 6% of Americans follow the Pyramid, so how can it be responsible for the 64% of Americans who are overweight or obese?" In fact, Willett’s own research shows refined grain consumption has not increased obesity.

"The truth is, Willett’s research and theories are not validated and do not stand up to the hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and the scientific research that went into the development of the Dietary Guidelines and the Food Guide Pyramid", Adams stated..

The complete letter can be read on the Wheat Foods Council’s website at (See related Editorial on page 6.)