RIDGWAY, COLORADO, U.S. — Twenty-six food and nutrition professionals visited the Fargo, North Dakota, U.S., area Aug. 5-7 as part of the second Wheat Safari, hosted by the Wheat Foods Council (WFC). Safari tour guests included food and nutrition bloggers, academics from major universities across the country, newspaper editors and broadcast journalists.

“It was a pleasure hosting this prominent group in North Dakota,” said Judi Adams, president of the WFC. “They are important influencers of consumer opinion and take nutrition education of the American public very seriously. We as an industry have much to gain by working with them to ensure that consumers have the facts about wheat production, harvesting, milling and producing a table food.”

As part of the tour, Julie Miller Jones, Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emerita of nutrition in the Department of Family, Consumer and Nutritional Sciences at the St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., addressed the group on nutrition issues, including how to help consumers identify whole grains in grocery stores, and why gluten-free diets only make sense for those diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

“People are going on gluten-free diets without a real diagnosis of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and that concerns me, because the gluten-free diet is expensive and most important, can be too low in dietary fiber and whole grains, and high in calories and glycemic carbohydrates,” Jones said. “It’s very hard to consume enough fiber on a gluten-free diet. Fiber is listed by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Committee as a nutrient of concern, because low intake of dietary fiber is associated with a number of chronic health issues. And there is evidence that diets that include grains such as wheat and adequate dietary fiber support healthy gut bacteria. Further, they are associated with improved markers of health. Diets that eliminate grains and gluten are not a proven way to lose weight; in fact, such diets may contribute to weight gain. The only proven weight loss occurs by eating fewer calories.”

Another speaker, Brett Carver, Ph.D., Wheat Genetics Chair in Agriculture at Oklahoma State University, covered agriculture-related issues, including wheat quality characteristics.

“Food begins with the seed,” Carver said. “My research specialty is developing new and improved seed of wheat that consumers will continue to eat and enjoy. Spending time with these journalists and health professionals gave us a chance to meet on common ground and learn from each other. Consumers are often misinformed about wheat and wheat foods, and now these influencers are in a position to correct that.”

In addition to hearing from professionals in the field, the group toured a farm in Portland, North Dakota, U.S., to learn first-hand about the harvesting of the wheat crop, and visited the North Dakota Mill in Grand Forks, the Conte Luna Foods pasta plant in Grand Forks, and the Northern Crops Institute and Wheat Quality Labs at North Dakota State University.

The first Wheat Safari was held in June 2012 in Manhattan, Kansas, U.S. More than 20 bloggers and columnists from across the U.S. gathered in Manhattan to participate in the event. Participants were introduced to the resources of the WFC, the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Home Baking Association, by participating in several hands-on activities, including a gluten lesson by the H.B.A.’s Sharon Davis; a pretzel baking workshop at the American Institute of Baking and a tour of the Hal Ross Flour Mill at K-State, plus a tour of the Farm to Market Bread Co. in Kansas City.

The group also toured the Chapman, Kansas, U.S.-area farm of Ken Wood, a director on the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.