Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Wall Street Journal, gluten-free food, and perpetuating a negative image

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a column in the business section of the newspaper titled 'The Gluten-Free Craze: Is It Healthy' (http://online.wsj.com/articles/how-we-eat-the-gluten-free-craze-is-it-healthy-1403491041). Embedded deep within the story was a side-bar that stated this column was "first in a series about how consumer perceptions and corporate strategies shape the national diet."
This is what the nutrition and health news of the country have turned into - corporate strategies and a reporter's perceptions.
Interestingly, the article does state that about 20 million Americans (one to two million with Celiac disease and another 18 million with gluten intolerance) have a health requirement that necessitates that they eat gluten-free foods.
To put the size of this group into perspective: it is the same as the entire population of the City of Baltimore, MD; it ismore than Johns Hopkins Medicine website's estimated 15 million people in the U.S. with coronary heart disease (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/cardiovascular_disease_statistics_85,P00243/)
Yet despite the size of the group of people who must eat gluten-free, the WSJ article still chose the word 'craze' to describe the increase in foods and consumer awareness surrounding this market segment. It makes the reader wonder whether the next drug company that brings a drug to combat coronary heart disease to market will be referred to as 'a craze.'
The writer in support of her position then shows three gluten-free products that have less nutrition than their 'with gluten' counterparts made from manufacturers who were adapting their existing product line. There was no information about readily available gluten-free products from mainstream manufacturers like Van'sSeeds of Change, and Bob's Red Mill and how they compare to those companies with dueling product lines - a more authentic comparison.
In addition, the article states that 'critics' view some product labeling as 'misleading' because certain manufacturers' products that have always been gluten-free (or trans-fat free, or whatever-free) are now labeled as such. Really. Accurate, clearly displayed information is now 'misleading'?
Many people without medical conditions chose to eliminate certain foods or ingredients from their diets because they feel better or have certain religious or social conscious beliefs. Why is there a stigma attached to those who chose to omit gluten?

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