Monday, November 28, 2011

NYT Magazine article, and what's missing

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine included an interesting piece: Should We All Go Gluten Free?

You might be surprised to hear that I have some opinions about said article. Since this post does not come with photos, you might be tempted to ignore it, so I shall employ the power of the bulleted list to pull you back in. 
  • The article is mis-titled (Note that article writers almost never write article titles, its up to the editor. Here we have another stunning example why "snappy titles" that have nothing to do with the content irritate people who care about the article)
  • There is a complete omission of the large price difference between gluten filled and gluten-free replacement foods
  • The author ignores the many people, companies, support groups, and facilities that have and DO support people with Celiac Disease, you know, before General Mills thought it a profitable idea.
  • There is no mention of access to care. This directly relates to the 11 year average diagnosis rate for Celiac Disease in the U.S.
  • There is a glossing over of what other "changes" occurred with the reformulation. 
  • Its hard to pick, but possibly the saddest part, is the lack of General Mills using its Big Food money to support and lobby for labeling laws that define "gluten free" in the United States. This would be an amazing way to actually allow people to know what food is and isn't safe.  
I don't not think that every article can do every thing for further the knowledge, understanding, compassion, and access to basic socially and culturally appropriate foods and healthcare, but ignoring half the story makes General Mills sound like a hero, rather than an opportunist.

And it ignores that the products that General Mills produce, benefit SOME people. Those with money, access to care and information, and who speak and read English, and who see gluten-free Bisquick as "food". It also ignores that there are a lot of strings attached to this offer of gluten-free replacement foods.

The reformulation of Chex came along with the addition of the preservative BHT. Trying their product, I found myself wondering, like many did, about its gluten-free nature because it caused digestive unrest. This, yet another omission, by Mr. O'Brien, gives me a less-than-warm-and-fuzzy-feeling about his proximity to General Mills. Maybe he is just a fan, a person who is excited to have more "normal" gluten free options on store shelves. Call me Pollyanna-ish, but I except a lot more from journalists.

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