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Food Insight Blog

Shedding light on the science behind nutrition and food safety.

Like many of you, contrbutors made New Year's Resolutions in 2010.  We shared ours here, so now that the year is up, its time to look back and see how we did.  How did you do on your resolution in 2010?

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By: Carrie Dooher, Director of Trends and Consumer Insights    Date: 12/28/10

2010 was a busy year for food with big stories and changes affecting both food safety and health and nutrition. We saw increased attention to food stories ranging from recalls to the obesity epidemic and associated health concerns, calls for reduction in nutrients such as sodium, and increased regulations and requirements on all the stages of food from manufacturing to labeling to retail.

2011 looks to be as busy, if not more, when it comes to food and food issues. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act,food safety legislation, the expected release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and voluntary initiatives such as labeling and reformulations will all drive heightened awareness and media coverage on all stages of our food and food production system.


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By: Kerry Phillips, RD   Date: 12/22/10

As a dietitian with a passion for communicating about food production, processing, and technology, I’m often puzzled when I think about the readiness with which consumers embrace the latest mobile or electronic technology and yet, in some cases, become wary when it comes to technology applied to food.  While the benefits of modern food processing technologies such as pasteurization and crop biotechnology are well-documented in the scientific literature, skepticism remains.

While consumers are more interested in where their food comes from, we are less familiar with the processes and technologies used in modern food production. So, how can we portray these technologies in a more positive light?


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By: Nick Halasz and Katy Meassick, University of Maryland College Park Dietetic Interns   Date: 12/20/10
The holiday season is in full swing, which means many of us will be heading over the hills and through the woods to be with family and friends. Whether you are driving, flying, or taking the train or bus, odds are that you will be packing or buying foods and beverages to keep you satiated and hydrated along the way. During this hectic time, we often forget about the importance of food safety and nutrition on a long road trip or on our way to catch a flight out of town.  Remember to wash your hands, keep foods at their proper temperatures, sneak in some exercise, and eat balanced meals. Follow these tips for a fun, safe and healthy holiday!


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By: Katie Burns  Date: 12/15/10  

 If you have an interest in food safety, you’ve likely heard the statistic that 76 million people in the US, approximately one in four people, get sick each year from foodborne disease; however, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number is now closer to 48 million people in the US, or one in six individuals.  Before you jump to conclusions about why the numbers have such a wide variance, the CDC assures that the 2011 numbers are more accurate that the 1999 numbers due to investments in better data sources and improved methods and urges that the public does not compare the two numbers.  


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This blog was originally published on, the gateway to food safety information provided by government agencies to help provide science based food safety information to consumers on 12/6/10

Diane Van, Manager, USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline   Date: 12/13/10

It’s that time of year when the parties never seem to end. They’re great occasions for exchanging good will and gifts – but not the dangerous bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

Here are some of the unwanted guests who may try to crash your party:


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By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD Date: 12/10/10

A calorie is a calorie. That is what I learned as a dietitian, and the currently available science indicates that calories are key when it comes to weight management. For example, if we eat more calories than we burn, we will gain weight. The fundamentals of calories and weight management sound simple. Yet, for many people, calories can be complicated – particularly counting them. In an age where all sorts of food and nutrition information is readily available, I can easily see how the calorie message gets lost in the shuffle.

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By: Nick Halasz and Katy Meassick, University of Maryland College Park Dietetic Interns

On November 30th, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released their much anticipated Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Calcium and Vitamin D. As dietetic interns, it was exciting to have the opportunity to listen to the IOM’s official webcast release, which was also attended by reporters from several major news outlets, including: CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

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By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD   Date: 12/6/10

Holiday hustle and bustle can cause wear and tear on the body. Stress, anxiety and poor nutrition can all take their toll on the immune system, keeping you from being your best. We all want to be everywhere and do everything this time of year, so it’s important that we take time out to focus on nutrition, physical activity, and food safety practices that can support our immune health.

Findings from the IFIC 2009 Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey show 80 percent of Americans believe that foods and beverages can provide immune health benefits. By giving our bodies a little TLC, we can give our immune system the tools it needs to keep us healthy. There are four major ways we can help our immune system do its job:


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By: Kimberly Reed, Executive Director, International Food Information Council Foundation

I was “wowed” by some of America’s future communicators during a recent national meeting of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), whose members are talented and engaged middle and high school student leaders.  Through this organization, which has more than 200,000 members in 6,500 chapters across America, students are given opportunities for leadership. The International Food Information Council Foundation presented 500 of these members with such an opportunity during four sessions in Albuquerque and St. Louis on everyone’s favorite topic: Food!

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By: Tony Flood   Date: 12/1/10

Yesterday, an important and historical event took place.  The U.S. Senate approved a new food safety bill  trying to reduce the numbers of Americans who suffer from foodborne illness from contaminated food.  The bill moves ahead with modernizing the current and somewhat outdated food safety system that included laws and regulations dating back to the 1930’s – long before we had the technology, expertise and capacity to prevent food safety problems, and way before we had television, computers and a vibrant 24 / 7 media environment.


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By: Regina M. Gill, University of Maryland College Park Dietetic Intern   Date: 11/29/10

Did you know that November is American Diabetes Month?  As a dietetic intern and soon-to-be Registered Dietitian, I have learned that knowledge is critical in helping individuals and communities understand how a disease can potentially impact their health.  Educating my community about how to live a healthy, nutritious life, with or without diabetes, is my goal.

Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar that results from the body’s inability to properly use or make insulin.  Overtime, diabetes can cause damage to your eyes, kidneys, and nerves, and can cause many other health problems, such as heart disease.  

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 23.6 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, and more than 1.5 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes since 2009. In addition, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has been on the rise. While family history and genetics play a large role in type 2 diabetes, other factors, such as low activity level, poor diet, and excess body weight can significantly increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Whether you think you or a friend or family member might have diabetes, or you’re just trying to get educated, here are some important facts you should know about diabetes:

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By: Kait Fortunato, University of Maryland College Park Dietetic Intern Date: 11/24/10

For many people, Thanksgiving conjures thoughts about food, family, rest, and relaxation. We often give thanks for our food, but what about the health and well-being of ourselves and our family and friends?

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By: Dayle Hayes, MS, RD   Date: 11/23/10

As the holiday season begins to shift into high gear, families across America begin to dream of gifts, celebrations, and festive meals. However, many of our friends and neighbors will need our help to meet their basic needs, as well as our donations to bring holiday cheer to the table.

The  U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service recently released its annual study measuring food security in the United States, Household Food Security in the United States, 2009, indicating that 1 in 6 Americans is still food insecure and now more than 50 million Americans. This includes 1 in 4 children.


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By: Kerry Phillips, RD   Date: 11/22/10

In early November, I joined thousands of Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Technicians, Registered, in Boston at the 2010 American Dietetic Association (ADA) Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE).  From sustainability to social media, the conference program was packed with timely and relevant food and nutrition topics.  Leading up to the conference, I looked forward to the closing keynote speaker – chef, author and TV personality, Anthony Bourdain.  Bourdain’s speech helped me to think beyond nutrition and remember the other roles food plays in our lives when communicating about nutrition and health: 


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By: Michele Payn-Knoper, CSP   Date: 11/18/10

Food is served on a variety of plates today; plastic, china, big, small and even fast food wrappers.  You might be wondering why I’m asking about the shape of your food plate. As a cook and a bit of a “foodie”, I love a beautiful presentation on the cool square plates and the look of the ovals.

However, as an agriculturist, I’m firmly convinced our food plate needs to remain round so that we can have all sides connected equally. This will give equal voice to the farmer, scientist, nutrition expert and food buyer. The circle gives people the opportunity to reach across, shake hands, and find common interests.  For example, science, accuracy and credibility are hot buttons with food producers, dietitians and scientists. Food fads, misinformed celebrity “experts” and inability to connect facts with buyers also add to the confusion.


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By: Adrienne Richards, Public Relations Manager, National Turkey Federation   Date: 11/17/10

The National Turkey Federation (NTF) takes great pride in being the centerpiece for the Thanksgiving holiday.  People don’t affectionately refer to it as “Turkey Day” for nothing.  So, as consumers go back in the kitchen to prepare most of their holiday feasts from scratch, many new and seasoned home cooks often have questions about purchasing, preparing and storing their holiday bird safely.  In fact, more than 46 million turkeys will be consumed this Thanksgiving.  NTF, along with theInternational Food Information Council Foundation and the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE), held a Thanksgiving Twitter Chat this week (Monday, Nov. 15) to help remind home chefs of how they can have a festive, delicious and food-safe celebration.


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By: Janet Helm, MS, RD   Date: 11/15/10

I recently returned from the American Dietetic Association’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo, where I was entrenched in presentations reviewing the latest nutrition science.  Speakers addressed everything from the conflicting data on saturated fats and heart disease to the emerging evidence exploring the anti-inflammatory benefits of spices and herbs.

Throughout many of the sessions, I was reminded of how important it is to accurately interpret this research for the consumer.  So often, scientific studies get lost in the translation, and confusing or misleading information is communicated to the public

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By: Kimberly Reed, Executive Director of the International Food Information Council Foundation   Date: 11/10/10
Nín hǎo.  I recently presented risk communication best practices and IFIC’s research on U.S. consumer perceptions of food technology and labeling to nearly 200 Chinese officials, including from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Provincial Government Offices, scientists from research institutes, and local industry representatives, at a first-ever Food Biotechnology Safety Assessment and Risk Management Forum.  The Forum took place at Nanjing Agriculture University in Nanjing, China. 

Simply stated, the Chinese said that they wanted to learn how to better communicate science-based issues to consumers, and asked professionals from the U.S., Brazil and the Philippines for their insights. 

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By: Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD   Date: 11/9/10

Being among 10,000 of my professional colleagues attending educational sessions in Boston at theAmerican Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition conference has been fantastic.  Nutrition is an evolving science and keeping up to date is essential for all practicing registered dietitians. 

This blog is not long enough to cover all the cutting-edge presentations, so instead here are a few highlights that intrigued and inspired me:

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