FEAR and FACTS — Food Science and Consumer Perception

Highlights: 

With conflicting messages and confusing labels, it’s no wonder consumers are puzzled about food science and nutrition. As a food scientist, I try to help my friends and loved ones sort the facts from the fallacies. Granted, I don’t always know the answer and I’m not afraid to say so, but sometimes I am afraid to reveal my position. Recently, I discovered an organization which aims to facilitate these types of conversations. Their mission is my mission, so I’m elated to spread the word about the work they are doing.

This blog was originally posted on GreenEyedGuide.com by Danielle Robertson (@GreenEyedGuide), food biochemist and author, and is reposted with permission.

In many cases, companies have found themselves challenged by consumers and groups who object to a technology based on what they have heard rather than what they know.

This insightful observation comes from Food Business News’ Executive Editor Keith Nunes. There’s no denying that fear is an effective sales strategy. Unfortunately, as Mr. Nunes points out, using fear creates false impressions and confusion among consumers, and these scare tactics are hurting the food and beverage industry. The solution? Fight fear with facts.

Food Science in the News — Fear and FACTS

In his editorial (found here–page 9), Mr. Nunes mentions several examples of how marketers use subliminal hints to sway consumer perceptions towards certain products by besmirching another. One example in the article is the ketchup label that reads “No HFCS”, which taps into consumer fears and public perception more than scientific evidence about HFCS. This is just one example. Have you ever looked at the label of a frozen yogurt product and found that it contains more sugar and fat than the ice cream you passed up?  Have you ever indulged in a Vegan cookie because you thought it would be healthier than the non-vegan variety? (like this one — see #5) Did you know that certified Organic foods are not inherently safer or more nutritious than their conventional counterparts?

With conflicting messages and confusing labels, it’s no wonder consumers are puzzled about food science and nutrition. As a food scientist, I try to help my friends and loved ones sort the facts from the fallacies. Granted, I don’t always know the answer and I’m not afraid to say so, but sometimes I am afraid to reveal my position. Recently, I discovered an organization which aims to facilitate these types of conversations. Their mission is my mission, so I’m elated to spread the word about the work they are doing.

Introducing the International Food Information Council (IFIC):

Their mission and vision says it all:

“…where credible science drives food policy and consumer choice.” Sold. Sign me up. In fact, I encourage all those seeking scientifically driven food science and nutrition information to become a FACTS follower. What is FACTS?
 

NEW — the FACTS network: 


The FACTS network is a product of IFIC. This network is like the Caffeine Informer of food: presenting unbiased, science-driven information so all consumers can make informed decisions in pursuit of healthier lives.

 

3 Reasons Why the IFIC and the FACTS Network Deserve Your Attention

REASON ONE: Daytime Doctors – John Oliver, Dr Oz and the Unfortunate State of the Supplement Industry

REASON TWO: Public Misconceptions –  Jimmy Kimmel asks Gluten-freebies “What is Gluten?”

REASON THREE: Emotional Conversations –  Raw versus Pasteurized milk; GMOs; Raising a child on a raw food diet; the soda ban; the dangers of energy drinks… These are all conversations that can be difficult to have without emotion. Plenty of scientists avoid these conversations altogether to avoid the confrontation. The IFIC says the percentage of emotional conversations around food is decreasing, but is that because people are learning it’s better to avoid these topics or because consumers are becoming more open-minded to different view points? I can only hope it’s the latter.

For valuable consumer information on raw milk, biotechnology, food labeling, food fortification and other health/nutrition topics, explore the IFIC website: http://www.foodinsight.org/

 

Become a FACTS follower: On Facebook, On Twitter, or through the FACTS home page

 

Other great resources:

“Taking the Pulse of America’s Diet: Findings from the 2014 IFIC Foundation Food & Health Survey” 

(See the condensed SlideShare presentation here)