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US dairy failing to reach critical 'food evangelists': Ketchum

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By Mark Astley+

06-Feb-2014
Last updated the 07-Feb-2014 at 14:21 GMT

PR agency Ketchum has urged the US dairy industry to engage those responsible for the growing criticism of food - the food evangelist - who until now the food industry has "failed to listen to."

Speaking at the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) Dairy Forum 2014 last week, Linda Eatherton from Ketchum Public Relations said that the food industry as a whole has "failed to listen" to these individuals.

According to research conducted by Ketchum, these food evangelists represent around 11% of the US population and “push out opinions about food and about agriculture four plus times per week on- and offline.”

“This group simply wants to be heard and to be respected,” she said. “As an industry, we have failed to listen.”

“We are not reaching these evangelists, because these individuals are not focused on facts, they’re focused on emotions.”

“They’re picking up information from all sorts of places and sources but they do not accept information coming through marketing channels. So basically, they don’t hear you, they don’t see you, and no matter how much information, science and facts we put out, they simply don’t see it,” she said.

“Highly educated… grossly misinformed”

These people are so different from your core consumer,” said Eatherton. “They’re not activists…they are self-appointed agents of change characterized by aggressive on- and offline conversations.”

“What is really interesting is that their income is well above average - highly educated individuals who are grossly misinformed about what technology is or is not.”

With regards to the dairy industry, these individuals have been responsible for pushing out opinions on, among other issues, genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In fact, pressure from activists backed up by these food evangelists has led some dairy manufacturers to voluntarily remove GMO ingredients from their products.

But "voluntary is not voluntary when it is at gunpoint,” said Eatherton.

She added that it was important to remember, however, that these individuals are not activists, and they "can be converted."

“What we have found through our own work with USFRA and with the Biotechnology Council is that about seven out of 10 actually, when approached in a certain way can change their minds and will form a more neutral point of view.”

“They are not a hardcore, unreachable vocal minority at all," she said.

GMOs safe

Speaking alongside Eatherton, Alison Van Eanennaam from the Department of Animal Science at the University of California addressed consumer concerns about the safety of GMOs.

“I know this is a very contentious issue but as a scientist I have to look at the data and I can answer that the products currently on the market are safe,” said Van Eanennaam.

“There are hundreds of scientific studies that have looked at this and we’ve been eating it for over 15 years in our food supply without a single substantiated case of ill health.”

“You may not believe me, but if you look at the major independent scientific organisations throughout the world… all come to the same conclusion – that it’s as safe as products produced using conventional breeding techniques," she said.

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

Linda is right

The US dairy industry is not listening, nor is the rest of the agriculture industry. I am one of those so called food evangelist. Having been a part time farmer and rancher, i am open to having my opinion changed but shouting GMO's are safe and Raw Dairy is vile over and over will never change my mind. What I hear is like an argument between toddlers shouting IS/IS NOT. If you want to convince me, show me the science in a form I can understand. I can read and I read very well. I have been reading medical and agriculture research reports for many years. I have yet to see a feeding study with GMO Corn Vs Standard Corn. I have not seen any studies where the fat profile of grass fed beef is compared to the fat profile of CAFO beef. I have not seen a feeding study comparing pasteurized milk to raw milk. This list goes on and on forever and I can only conclude that the results of these studies would not be favorable to the business of agriculture. Instead of the research needed to convince me and others, I see groups reading the existing studies and once again reporting that GMO's are safe and Raw mIlk kills. Even the CDC is guilty of manufacturing this data. When the Agriculture industry begins to tell the unvarnished truth, I will agree to be convinced, but as Linda noted, mindlessly shouting IS SAFE will never change my mind because I can shout IS NOT almost as loud and we will both continue to sound like toddlers.

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Posted by Jerry Segers
15 February 2014 | 02h09

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