I am something of a broken record on this subject, but it’s not my fault, it’s everywhere! The latest Food Programme (Feb 3) broadcast an interview with Michael Pollan about In Defence of Food, with discussion about nutritionism, with input from the term’s founder, Gyorgy Scrinis; Danish sociologist Soren Askegaard – who argued 11 years ago that focus on nutitional elements of food bypasses the equally important cultural aspects; and British physician Dennis Burkett (the father of fibre).
There is an interesting clip with Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency who, like other food scientists I’ve heard interviewed about Pollan’s book, doggedly stick to a misinterpretation of Pollan’s advice that “you shouldn’t eat anything your great-grandmother would recognise as food” — instead trying to assert that Pollan is proposing you only eat what your grandmother would have eaten. Happily, interviewer Sheila Dillon pressed him on the point until it was clear he either hadn’t understood or was deliberately presenting a contrary position. While he continued to dodge the correction (even reasserting the misinterpretation on his blog), at least the attempt to mislead was made clear to listeners.
We need more such interviewers in Canada; after Anna Maria Tremonti’s interview with Pollan, the point was allowed to slide in a rebuttal interview with a food scientist, who again deliberately misconstrued Pollan’s advice, inaccurately paraphrasing it as ‘not to eat any foods that your grandmother wouldn’t recognise’ and lamely citing such things as exotic fruits that have been developed or popularised in the past century.
Which missed the point entirely. Pollan advises going to the wisdom of our ancestors – not literally to their diet – and using that to guide your food-buying, using highly processed yogurts in a tube as his benchmark for something great-granny would definitely not recognise as food, let alone know how to ingest.
Honestly. If food scientists can’t – or worse, won’t – get a simple concept like that right, it rather begs the question of why we should trust other advice they give?