Nightline Attacks 'Edible Food-Like Substances' in One-Sided Report
Presenting a writer with no scientific background as an expert on food and nutrition might not seem like a prudent editorial decision for a major network newscast, but ABCâs âNightlineâ did it anyway.
In a May 8 segment, reporter John Donvan gobbled up the anti-food industry propaganda of Michael Pollan, a writer and journalism professor who is a long time critic of âagribusiness.â (But you wouldnât know Pollanâs history from Donvanâs segment.)
âThere is food and there is what I call âedible food-like substances,ââ Pollan said. âThese are things we invented in the last 50 years or so that, you know, smell like food, taste like food, look like food, but theyâre very different than the kinds of things people ate 100 years ago.â
Pollan, who recently published his latest book, âIn Defense of Food: An Eaterâs Manifesto,â advocates returning to an all-organic diet and offers tips for healthy eating such as not eating anything your grandmother wouldnât recognize.
Donvan even joined Pollanâs attack on processed and packaged foods, proposing to his subject that âitâs the edible equivalent of waxed fruit, is what youâre saying.â
Pollan praised âthe authority of momâ and lamented that âthe holders of culture when it comes to food (mothers) have been undermined by both the scientists and the food marketers.â
âIf she picked up a box of Gogurt portable yogurt tubes, would she recognize this?â Pollan asked. âI donât think she would.â
And, he says, stay away from the middle of the supermarket where youâll find the processed foods. âItâs in the peripheries where the food that has been the least fiddled with in the last 75 years is found, so the fresh fruits and vegetables, the meat, the fish, the dairy products. And in the middle is where you get all the kind of imperishable processed foods.â
Donvan joined with Pollan in slamming scientists and âfood marketersâ who support health foods that fit in with popular diet trends. âThe problem with that being that sometimes scientists are not working with all the information they need,â Donvan said.
The original broadcast in the
But the professor of journalism at the
âIn Defense of Foodâ isnât Pollanâs first foray into anti-industry activism. One of his previous books, âThe Omnivoreâs Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals,â also slams âagribusinessâ and the fast-food industry. According to reviews, that book even slams what Pollan calls âBig Organic,â instead praising small independent farms.
In another Times report, Pollan praised rising food prices â a result of increased demand for corn as ethanol mandates hoard supply â because, he said, they will âlevel the playing field for sustainable food that doesnât rely on fossil fuels.â
Donvanâs segment offered no input from the food industry to defend itself, nor nutritionists who might disagree with Pollanâs claims. One glimmer of balance appeared during the discussion of organic food when Donvan recognized a major downside: cost.
âYou think the average person can afford to eat well?â Donvan asked.
âYou know, itâs a problem. Real food costs more than edible food-like substances, by and large,â Pollan said, encouraging people who canât afford pricier food to deal with it. âI think we need to begin to spend more on food, both in terms of money and time. I know thatâs not a popular message. People like their convenience food. But this experiment of outsourcing our food preparation to corporations has failed us. I mean itâs left us really unhealthy and really unsatisfied and I think itâs undermined family life and undermined community.â