Mother knows best? Or journalist does?
ABC's "Nightline" seems to think so when it comes to nutrition advice. The May 8 broadcast featured health tips from a writer with no scientific background encouraging viewers to only eat food their mother would recognize.
Michael Pollan, a long-time opponent of "agribusiness" - the food industry - was featured in a segment on his new book, "In Defense of Food: And Eater's Manifesto." Pollan advocates a return to an all-organic diet and offers tips for healthy eating.
Pollan praised "the authority of mom" and lamented that "the holders of culture when it comes to food (mothers) have been undermined by both the scientists and the food marketers."
"There is food and there is what I call ‘edible food-like substances,'" Pollan said. "These are things we invented in the last 50 years or so that, you know, smell like food, taste like food, look like food, but they're very different than the kinds of things people ate 100 years ago."
Reporter John Donvan gobbled it up. He joined in the attack on processed foods, calling them "the edible equivalent of waxed fruit." Donvan's segment offered no input from the food industry to defend itself, nor nutritionists who might disagree with Pollan's claims.
Donvan was so busy chewing the fat the Pollan he forgot to note that the journalism professor and contributor to The New York Times has no scientific background. Viewers wouldn't know that without reading supplemental coverage of the story on the ABC News Web site. Donvan also failed to mention Pollan's history of anti-industry work.
He recently railed against "decrepit food factories" in a piece published in The New York Times. In another Times report, Pollan praised rising food prices - a result of increased demand for corn as ethanol mandates hoard supply - because, he said, they will "level the playing field for sustainable food that doesn't rely on fossil fuels."
"People like their convenience food," he said. "But this experiment of outsourcing our food preparation to corporations has failed us. I mean it's left us really unhealthy and really unsatisfied and I think it's undermined family life and undermined community."