Carolyn O’ Neil: Dietitian, Author and Food Journalist

(Jamie) We’re back! Let’s join Kyle and Carolyn as they discuss her perspective on the food industry.
(Kyle) (Kyle) Hi this is Kyle Bauer, I have Carolyn O’Neil with me. We are currently in New Orleans. She has an interesting perspective when it comes to the food industry in that she’s worked with CNN, is a reporter for major news companies, has to report on food everyday. Carolyn, how do you do that and remain credible and sort through mysteries? (Carolyn) I do believe that I am credible. I currently report for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, which is a major news daily. I have a weekly column that I’m responsible for, and believe you me, if you have to write something every week, it comes up pretty fast. You think what am I going to write about this week? You asked about credibility. I am credible only in that I feel I have the knowledge as a registered dietician, with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and over 20 years of experience of witnessing the roller coaster, if you will, of research on food, nutrition, agriculture, and all the trends. That’s not even something that I think about because I care about finding the best information, and then finding the best ways to translate it. OK? So, if credibility comes from people trusting the way you translate the science because you understand it first and foremost, so you can put it into a common language, I think that is the answer. But you know what, beyond credibility, I think today as journalists we worry about relatability. Are you really connecting with folks and what they’re really concerned about, what they are afraid of, what they’d like to splurge on, what they’re curious about? And of course, that’s going to morph from is it a Mom with little kids to maybe a senior adult? (Kyle) You know there are legitimate concerns on health issues, whether it be gluten free or many other things, allergies. But it appears that a lot of people take advantage of that in marketing and even marketing of research, to get play time in the news. (Carolyn) Let’s address what’s happening in the food market place first of all. You know when you go to the super market, you see so many things that are on a package, whether it says gluten free and maybe it’s a product that never contained gluten to begin with. I’ll use a silly example, but it’s a true one: water. I actually saw gluten free water. I thought, that is ridiculous. But then I thought OK, if you’re celiac and you really do have to avoid it, their tagline was because you can never be too sure. Now with allergies, I think it’s also important too. Say on a milk product, gluten free. There’s no gluten in milk. But maybe it was a from a facility that could potentially have also run some other products that happened to have gluten in there because of the wheat or whatever was there. So, is this water wet, or is it just something to reassure consumers hey, we’ve done the worrying for you? You know what I mean? I think there’s value to that, but then some of the marketing claims I think, they’re just trying to jump on a health halo-now with greek yogurt and it’s a snack cake. But they’re trying to make the snack cake seem more healthy by saying we had a greek yogurt in the recipe. (Kyle) We’re visiting with Carolyn O’Neil. This is Kyle Bauer reporting from New Orleans.
(Jamie) Thanks, Kyle. Next up is this week’s Kansas Soybean Update.

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