Monday, October 24, 2016

ICYMI: New Haven publisher's response to Huffington Post column by Dr. David Katz criticizing Yale Daily News reports about him

source

Last month veteran publisher Mitchell Young (New Haven Magazine, Business New Haven, etc.) posted a critical rebuttal to a Huffington Post column by physician/author/columnist David L. Katz MD MPH.

Young's comment was hard to get to, so I obtained Young's permission to publish it here.

It started with these three Yale Daily News articles.

Yale Daily News reporter David Yaffe-Bellany (source)

In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.

In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded.

...But Katz omitted a crucial detail from both reviews: the subject of his praise was his own self-published passion project, released two months earlier under the pseudonym Samhu Iyyam.
Via Instructor criticized for comments by Paddy Gavin, April 21, 2016:
David Katz MPH ’93, founder of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and a voluntary clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine, is facing criticism this week from doctors and health care professionals around the world for his quoted comments about investigative journalist Nina Teicholz in a recent article published in the Guardian.
Via Yale doctor’s column raises questions — again by David Yaffe-Bellany, September 12, 2016:
David Katz SPH ’93 — the Yale-affiliated doctor whose over-the-top Huffington Post review of his own self-published novel caused a furor in the nutrition community last year — has once again tested the boundaries of ethical journalism.

In another column for The Huffington Post over the summer, Katz lambasted the Massachusetts-based supermarket chain Big Y, calling its ad campaign for the In-Vince-Ible Pizza, a fatty snack named after NFL star Vince Wilfork, “deeply disturbing.” He described the pizza as symptomatic of the obesity epidemic in America, and questioned the parenting skills of Wilfork, who appears alongside his son in ads for the product.

...But nowhere in the May article, which also appeared in the New Haven Register, did Katz mention another crucial detail: Big Y is not just any supermarket. Just one month before the column was published, Big Y cut ties with a nutritional ratings service, NuVal, that Katz established in 2008 and has passionately championed ever since.

David L. Katz MD MPH (source)

To my knowledge, Dr. Katz did not write any letters to the editor or request published corrections for factual errors or ask for space to write rebuttals to any of the articles.

Instead, he responded via his September 15 Huffington Post column, Butter, Beef, And The Yale Daily News:
I keep turning up in the Yale Daily News lately...Alas, the coverage is all negative.

They reported that I wrote a blog in the 3rd person about my self-published fantasy/adventure novel (which, by the way, my Mother and I think is very good) when the publisher suggested it. In a bizarre story in The Guardian allegedly about the history of sugar, which the writer got substantially wrong, I was horribly misquoted on a topic that was never on the record in the first place. The Yale Daily News never even asked me if I said what I allegedly said (I did not), but they did repeat it, and built a story around that, too. Most recently, I challenged the propriety of a local grocer’s ads for maximizing meat intake, and linking it to ‘invincible’ health against all evidence. That third item was in the Yale Daily News this week.

...(The YDN’s) negative interest in me began exactly when I took a prominent, public position in support of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report; when I campaigned for the inclusion of sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; and when I confronted the cabal working to undermine these very things, and peddle more meat.

That’s the common element in this otherwise random coverage: meat.

...That the agents of meat should come after me should surprise no one. When Oprah Winfrey highlighted some of the abuses involved in the mass production of beef in the U.S., they went after her. If Oprah’s platform does not dissuade attack, mine certainly will not.

...The agents of meat, apparently, sift social media daily looking for dirt on me, and have done so for the past two years at least. They don’t find much, because there isn’t much- but they make the most of what they find. And when they can’t make a story of the latest fleck themselves, they peddle it to the Yale Daily News, which is apparently always ready to buy it, few if any questions asked.
If you click this button at the end of his column...


And then click...

...you'll find Mitchell Young's September 28 comment. (Like I said, it's hard to get to.)

For clarity, I did some minor copy editing which Young approved.


Dr. Katz:

I sympathize with the feelings of unfair treatment in the local media. And I can understand that you believe many of your positive efforts should be well covered by media, especially the Yale Daily News (YDN). The nature of news coverage is that the "Man Bites Dog" story wins out and that's just the way it is.

I have, as you might remember, interviewed you for and in fact reported on your NuVal system. I personally vouched for the system and how it gave me insight into food quality. Further, our publications presented you with what for us is an important recognition of Health Care Hero, one of several that year from a world class community of researchers, providers, care givers. We hosted an event for our Health Care Heroes and presented you with an award directly.

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that our coverage was very positive and I certainly hold the view that your efforts to promote good nutrition and healthful practices have been very laudatory. But as you might imagine a "but" is coming, two in fact.

First, let me say one of your detractors did reach out to us about the negative stories that the YDN reported on. And while we chose not to cover them at the time, I will tell you that they did create problems in my view.

First of all, whether a novel or whether your mom likes a book or not is irrelevant and does not properly address what is (to media people anyway) an important issue. When a "truthteller" which we accept you as and which you present yourself as disguises himself to self promote - how can I say it best? - this is very bad. Frankly, if as repeated and reported is true, a sincere apology is required and not a personal anecdote.

Troubling to me, however, is the Big Y ad commentary. The Big Y Supermarket is the one I shop in and the supermarket that I wrote about when discussing and applauding your nutrition monitoring systems, NuVal.

What does disturb me, however, to the best of my understanding and in this column, is that you did not disclose that you have had through NuVal, a significant business relationship with Big Y in your article attacking their ad in regards to nutrition and health information.

Frankly there is much to attack in supermarket practices including Big Y - and while I applauded the NuVal system and wondered why Big Y chose to use it - it didn't stop them from heavily marketing much unhealthy foods, even more than the healthy ones.

When I was contacted about your alleged "transgressions" I did some checking and learned that at least my Big Y supermarket quietly dropped the NuVal labeling and their own staff wouldn't comment on it and some didn't even know that the labels were removed or covered.

Frankly, I had intended to follow up with you and the corporate offices because frankly that is A BIG STORY and I just didn't get around to it yet .

If Big Y did scale back or drop NuVal, that further underscores your obligation to inform readers of this and your relationship with Big Y when you criticised their promotion of meat.

For the record I do not eat meat, for the health reasons that you and others regularly discuss.

Today we have columnists, advocates, experts and a few journalists still. All are writing and reporting on topics, news and opinions. While columnists and experts might not believe they have a duty to disclose their relationships, one should expect that the public and other media will hold them to the journalistic standard in this case.

If you choose the path of "truthteller," then if you compromise it, YDN or anyone will feel an obligation to explore that – whether we've been fair or kind in coverage in the past or not.

I think that's what happened, and I don't think it is appropriate to make the YDN the target here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

I won my NJ public records lawsuit -- here's my attorney's statement [UPDATED]


UPDATE: Click here for all case records to date, including the judge's October 24, 2016 order in my favor.

UPDATE: Judge: Anyone May Access Records by Karen Knight, Cape May County Herald, October 21, 2016
A New Jersey Superior Court judge has determined that a Georgia man can access state records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). That differs with a decision rendered earlier this year by an Atlantic/Cape May County Superior Court judge who said out-of-state residents have no right to benefits of the act.

Peter Heimlich, an Atlanta-based investigative blogger, filed a lawsuit in June challenging the Educational Information and Resource Center's (EIRC) denial for records filed under OPRA because he was not a state resident. Attorney C.J. Griffin, of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, represented Heimlich and specializes in First Amendment law. (cont.)
#####

This morning I won my public records request lawsuit filed against a New Jersey government agency.

As I blogged some months ago, in June attorney CJ Griffin, who specializes in First Amendment law, filed the suit in New Jersey's Gloucester County Superior Court on my behalf.

The case challenged a state agency called the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) which denied a request for records I filed under New Jersey's Open Public Records Act (OPRA) because I'm not a resident of the Garden State.

source

Here's a statement I just received from CJ who works at the firm of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden in Hackensack:
Today the Honorable Georgia M. Curio, Assignment Judge in Gloucester County, ruled that a person need not be a resident of New Jersey to gain access to government records under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. Despite OPRA’s opening statement that government records “shall be readily accessible to citizens of this State,” Judge Curio found that the remainder of OPRA’s statutory provisions clearly provide that “any person” may request records and that any ambiguity in the statute was to be construed in favor of access in accordance with the State’s public policy of transparency. Accordingly, she held that Peter Heimlich, an investigative blogger who resides in Georgia, had standing to request records from the Educational Information Resource Center in New Jersey.

Curio is not the first judge to rule on this issue. Law Division judges in Burlington County and Ocean County have both held that “any person” may request government records under OPRA, not just citizens. One judge, however, in Atlantic County, has found that only citizens of New Jersey may request records. That decision is currently being appealed.

“New Jersey is often the subject of national news and is situated between two national media markets, New York and Philadelphia. It makes no sense that national news media would not be able to gain access to New Jersey’s records simply because their journalists do not live here,” said CJ Griffin, attorney for Mr. Heimlich. “We are very pleased that Judge Curio recognized that OPRA repeatedly states that ‘any person’ may gain access to government records and that she has refused to limit OPRA’s scope.”

“The public benefits when government records are made publicly available, regardless of whether they were requested by a local resident or by a journalist who wishes to publish a news story on an newsworthy event occurring in New Jersey.”
Click here for all the case documents I have -- I'll upload more as available.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Raley's supermarkets "phasing out" NuVal nutrition scoring system developed by influential scientists at Harvard, Yale, etc. [UPDATED]

Store locator map via Raleys.com

Last month the Yale Daily News reported that Big Y, a New England supermarket chain, had dropped the NuVal nutrition scoring system.

According to the story, a Big Y executive said the NuVal system --  which was developed by high-profile, influential scientists like Drs. Walter Willett of Harvard and David L. Katz of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center -- was "out of date."
 
Last week I published a crowdsourcing appeal asking readers if their local supermarkets were using NuVal.

As a result of a tip from a reader, yesterday the media representative of Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, which owns and operates 134 supermarkets in California and Nevada, wrote me that the company is "phasing out" NuVal by the end of this year.

Here are the details.

Shortly after I blogged my crowdsource  request -- my first, by the way -- I received this tweet from valued Sidebar reader Chris Wirth:


As I suspected by his nom de tweet, Chis subsequently confirmed that, like me, he's a fan of P.G. Wodehouse.

Chris also sent me this photo he took last week of a shelf at a Raley's store in Pleasonton, California -- as you see, there are no NuVal rating labels...


 ...which look something like this:

source

Via a September 14, 2011 press release issued by Raley's and NuVal LLC of Quincy, Massachusetts:
Raley’s Family of Fine Stores has introduced the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System in its 124 Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill Foods stores. Raley’s is a family-owned and operated grocery chain with store locations throughout Northern California and Nevada.

...This robust food rating system was developed by a team of recognized nutrition and medial experts, led by Dr. David Katz of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. The NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System is objective and had no retailer or manufacturer involvement in its development.
David L. Katz MD (source)

Via NuVal's website, here's the "team of recognized nutrition and medial experts":

Chair: Dr. David Katz, Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Leonard Epstein, University of Buffalo; inventor, Traffic Light Diet
Dr. David Jenkins, University of Toronto; inventor, Glycemic Index
Dr. Francine Kaufman, USC; Former President, American Diabetes Association
Dr. Robert Kushner, Northwestern University
Dr. Ronald Prior, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, USDA HNRC
Dr. Rebecca Reeves, Past President, American Dietetic Association
Dr. Barbara Rolls, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Sachiko St. Jeor, University of Nevada
Dr. John Seffrin, President & CEO, American Cancer Society
Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University


source

In an e-mail yesterday to Chelsea Minor, Raley's Director of PR and Public Affairs, I shared the information I received from Chris and asked her if Raley's was still using NuVal.

Here's her prompt reply:
Raley’s is phasing out the NuVal system at this time. Our stores are on different schedules, but expect the transition to be completed by end of year.
I e-mailed Ms. Minor a follow-up asking why Raley's chose to phase out NuVal and will update this item after I hear from her.

UPDATED, 2:55pm EST: I just got this response from Ms. Minor:
The conversation around nutrition and education has continued to evolve over the past five years and since Raley’s implemented NuVal. Our customers are asking for more information about product nutrition and overall health and wellness, and we are listening and responding. Recently we added a corporate dietitian and regularly feature educational information about nutrition and wellness on our website. Additionally, we share information through our Raley's Something Extra publication and via in store materials. We are also in the process of creating a new system that is personalized and easy to understand.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

CROWDSOURCE: If you shop at these supermarkets, I need your help!

source

Do you shop at any of the supermarkets pictured in the above map?

If so, I'd welcome your help to move forward a story I'm reporting.

At the moment here's where it's at.

On May 23 I reported an item which included information I turned up suggesting that the New England supermarket chain Big Y may have dropped a high-profile nutrition rating system called NuVal that was developed by these prominent names:

Chair: Dr. David Katz, Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Leonard Epstein, University of Buffalo; inventor, Traffic Light Diet
Dr. David Jenkins, University of Toronto; inventor, Glycemic Index
Dr. Francine Kaufman, USC; Former President, American Diabetes Association
Dr. Robert Kushner, Northwestern University
Dr. Ronald Prior, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, USDA HNRC
Dr. Rebecca Reeves, Past President, American Dietetic Association
Dr. Barbara Rolls, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Sachiko St. Jeor, University of Nevada
Dr. John Seffrin, President & CEO, American Cancer Society
Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University

After posting my item, I spent weeks spinning my wheels trying to find out if Big Y was still using the NuVal system.

Multiple e-mails and messages to Big Y, NuVal LLC (the Quincy, MA company that markets the system), Dr. David Katz, and other players went unanswered.

Four months later via the September 12 Yale Daily News (emphasis added), it turned out that my Spidey Sense got it right:
Big Y adopted NuVal, a service that assigns numerical scores to food products based on their nutritional value, six years ago as part of an effort to promote healthy eating habits. But last April the chain dropped NuVal because of concerns that its ratings algorithm was out of date.
I'm now trying to find out if other NuVal client supermarkets are still using the system.

Based on my previous wheel-spinning, I thought this crowdsourcing approach might be more productive.  

If you're game, next time you're shopping at any of the supermarkets on the map, look for NuVal rating tags like this:

source

If possible, please take photos and e-mail them to me with details including the store location, the date you visited, and any other information you'd like to share.

If you're really motivated, you could ask a manager or another employee if they know anything.

Click here for my contact information. If you want me to keep anything confidential, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Published correction produces more info re: Big Y Supermarkets dropping nutrition rating system developed by high-profile scientists -- and a question about buggy whips

source

Via a September 12 Yale Daily News article by reporter David Yaffe-Bellany (which picked up where my May 23 blog left off):
[New England supermarket chain] Big Y adopted NuVal, a service that assigns numerical scores to food products based on their nutritional value, six years ago as part of an effort to promote healthy eating habits. But last April the chain dropped NuVal because of concerns that its ratings algorithm was out of date.

...Claire D’Amour-Daley, chief communications officer for Big Y, told the News that the chain dropped NuVal because the algorithm is out of date and customers are increasingly able to make savvy nutritional decisions on their own.
Last week I came across Coming to a Grocery Store Near You: The NuVal System, a September 22, 2016 article by Elaine M. Hinzey, RD, LDN published by Nutrition411.com, described in a a 2014 press release as "a vibrant news source and clinical resource center designed for healthcare professionals who integrate diet and nutrition into patient consultations."

Ms. Hinzey's article included this:


Based on Yaffe-Bellany's article, that appeared to be an error so I e-mailed the Yale story to Nutrition411 and also shared this screen shot from the website of NuVal LLC, based in Quincy, Massachusetts:


The next day I received this e-mail from an editor:
I have looked into this and consulted with...(an) expert on the Nutrition411 editorial board...I have decided to add an asterisk next to Big Y with the caveat that “Big Y will no longer utilize NuVal after the end of 2016.” (According to sources), “Big Y is stepping away from NuVal and has started to phase it out. The process did begin several months back. However their NuVal licensing contract runs through the end of the year which is why their logo still appears on the NuVal website.” I also included a link in the references to the Yale article if people want more information.
If you want to check out the updated version of the article, you can go to http://www.nutrition411.com/articles/coming-grocery-store-near-you-nuval-system.
Here are the updates:



Why is this interesting and/or newsworthy?

Per my September 13 item, a decade ago these experts -- some of the best-known names in nutrition science -- developed the algorithm that's the basis for the NuVal system:

Chair: Dr. David Katz, Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Leonard Epstein, University of Buffalo; inventor, Traffic Light Diet
Dr. David Jenkins, University of Toronto; inventor, Glycemic Index
Dr. Francine Kaufman, USC; Former President, American Diabetes Association
Dr. Robert Kushner, Northwestern University
Dr. Ronald Prior, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, USDA HNRC
Dr. Rebecca Reeves, Past President, American Dietetic Association
Dr. Barbara Rolls, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Sachiko St. Jeor, University of Nevada
Dr. John Seffrin, President & CEO, American Cancer Society
Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University

A 2007 report called the nutrition scoring algorithm, "An unfailing, ever reliable guide to better nutrition both within and across food categories."

So how do these renowned scientists respond to Big Y's opinion that their system has gone the way of the buggy whip?

To my knowledge no one has asked.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Author/journalist Nina Teicholz's critique of Retraction Watch's reporting about failed attempt by DC special interest group to retract her BMJ article

Via BMJ won’t retract controversial dietary guidelines article, says author by editor Alison McCook, Retraction Watch, September 23, 2016:
The BMJ is not going to retract a 2015 article criticizing the expert report underlying the U.S. dietary guidelines, despite heavy backlash from readers, according to the author of the article.

As Politico reported today, the publication told journalist Nina Teicholz it wouldn’t retract the article, first published one year ago today.
That day I posted a couple of comments on Ms. McCook's item (here and here) and this morning Ms. Teicholz posted the following comment which my Belfast blogging buddy Dean Sterling Jones and I are co-publishing with her permission.

#####

This piece, like the ones previously on this topic by Retraction Watch, have lacked balance: the preponderance of quotes and all the links embedded in the piece are critical of me or echo the CSPI playbook, which is to cast innuendo on my work, calling it “error laden” and somehow related to the meat industry. Neither of these allegations is based on any evidence, and neither is true. Moreover, Retraction Watch’s coverage has leaned heavily on reporting by The Verge, which has been the most defensive of the government’s Dietary Guidelines and uniquely critical of me (and is a difficult choice for RW to defend, given that The Verge is an obscure outlet, and that the reporter covering this issue has no experience in covering nutrition science or policy–a highly complex field). Meanwhile, RW has ignored a great deal more mainstream, balanced coverage of the issue, some of which I list below.

Consider what a more balanced piece on this issue might look like (It’s impossible to embed links in the Comment section, so I’ve only included a few).

Nina Teicholz, science journalist and author of the bestselling The Big Fat Surprise, has challenged some of the fundamental thinking on nutrition science and disease. Her piece in The BMJ questioned the science underlying the Dietary Guidelines, including whether it was systematically reviewed. When the piece came out, a year ago, it was criticized heavily by many scientists, including all the members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and CSPI, who called it “error-laden.” But its allegations were supported by others, including prominent nutrition scientist Arne Astrup, who was quoted in Cardiobrief as saying, “The (DGA) committee seems to be completely dissociated from the top level scientific community, and unaware of the most updated evidence.” And others have echoed the criticisms, including a 2016 piece in The Annals of Internal Medicine by prominent cardiologist Steven E. Nissen, entitled, “US Dietary Guidelines, an Evidence Free Zone,” and an op-ed by former DGA committee member Cheryl Achterberg, questioning both the science and the process of the Guidelines. (see below for a list of many other critiques of the DGAs).

In fact, concern about the DGAs and their inability to combat the crippling epidemics of obesity and diabetes, has grown recently, such that last year, the US Congress held a hearing on October 7, at which both the Secretaries of HHS and USDA, who jointly produce the Guidelines, were called to testify. [Statements of concern about the DGAs by members of Congress can be found at http://www.nutrition-coalition.org/congress-is-concerned/, in which many of the issues raised were similar to those in The BMJ article]. Indeed, the level of Congressional concern was so high that Congress subsequently mandated that the National Academy of Medicine conduct the first-ever major peer review of the DGAs. Moreover, Congress appropriated $1 million to ensure that the review be conducted. (Congress also required that all 2015 DGA committee members recuse themselves from the process.) The major goal of the review is understand how the DGAs “can better prevent chronic diseases.” Given that 2/3 of the nation are overweight or obese, and more than half pre-diabetic or diabetic, these public health issues are of urgent importance.

CSPI, a staunch defender of the Dietary Guidelines, has called critics of the Guidelines “full of baloney” and portrayed their views as being motivated by industry funding.
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/257353-coalition-is-full-of-baloney-on-nutrition-guidelines

CSPI in particular opposes new thinking on saturated fat, presumably because the group has campaigned against these fats for decades and indeed, is uniquely responsible for driving them out of the food supply. Yet these fats have undergone considerable reconsideration over the past five years [There are many articles on this, in mainstream publications]. In her BMJ piece, Teicholz argued that this recent science had not been systematically reviewed by the 2015 DGA committee.

CSPI wrote the letter of retraction submitted to The BMJ and collected signatures from 180+ scientists, including all members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory committee. This is virtually an unprecedented number of scientists (?) calling for retraction of an article [and is therefore arguably a subject that RW ought to address]. The original number of signers was actually higher, but 18 dropped out. Harvard professor Frank Hu made a particular effort to round up signatures. He is the DGA committee member who chaired the 2015 DGA review of saturated fats that Teicholz criticized. [Links to these topics can be found in Heimlich’s post, above]

It’s not clear whether the 180+ scientists understood the alleged errors that formed the foundation of the BMJ retraction request, as reporter Ian Leslie reported in The Guardian: “When I asked them to name just one of the supposed errors in it [the BMJ article], not one of them was able to. One admitted he had not read it.”
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin

Many scientists believe that the DGAs do not reflect the most current and most rigorous science. Teicholz’s BMJ article could be part of the effort to shed light on these issues. And possibly, this retraction effort by CSPI and the DGA committee members is an attempt to shut down debate on their long-held positions rather than an earnest alarm about alleged errors. The fact that CSPI has also worked to maneuver Teicholz’s dis-invitation from a conference panel adds to the impression that they are trying to silence debate.

http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-agriculture/2016/03/teicholz-disinvited-from-food-policy-panel-stabenow-grassley-let-usda-fda-review-syngenta-merger-fda-to-release-food-safety-tests-on-cucumbers-213410
http://www.the-sidebar.com/2016/03/craven-cave-in-how-journalistauthor.html

OTHER EXPERTS WHO HAVE BEEN CRITICAL OF THE DIETARY GUIDELINES

“The expert committee report repeatedly makes recommendations based on observational studies and surrogate end points, failing to distinguish between recommendations based on expert consensus rather than high-quality RCTs. Unfortunately, the current and past U.S. dietary guidelines represent a nearly evidence-free zone.”
— Steven Nissen, Department Chair, Cardiovascular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, The Annals of Internal Medicine, January 19 2016

“Despite being controversial recommendations based on weak scientific evidence, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created in 1980 a food pyramid and placed carbohydrates at its base. This national nutritional experiment contributed, as we know now, to the increased prevalence of obesity.”
— Osama Hamdy, Medical Director, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Nutrition Revolution: The End of the High Carbohydrates Era for Diabetes Prevention and Management, January 11, 2015.

“These guidelines are hugely influential, affecting diets and health around the world. The least we would expect is that they be based on the best available science. Instead the committee has abandoned standard methodology, leaving us with the same dietary advice as before – low fat, high carbs. Growing evidence suggests that this advice is driving rather than solving the current epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The committee’s conflicts of interest are also a concern. We urgently need an independent review of the evidence and new thinking about diet and its role in public health.”
— Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief, The BMJ The BMJ, September 24, 2015.

“Important aspects of these recommendations remain unproven, yet a dietary shift in this direction has already taken place even as overweight/obesity and diabetes have increased. Although appealing to an evidence-based methodology, the DGAC Report demonstrates several critical weaknesses, including use of an incomplete body of relevant science; inaccurately representing, interpreting, or summarizing the literature; and drawing conclusions and/or making recommendations that do not reflect the limitations or controversies in the science.”
— Hite et al, Nutrition 2010.

“It seems reasonable to consider…whether the guidelines can be trusted and whether they have done more harm than good.”
— David A. McCarron, University of California, Davis Wall Street Journal, op-ed, Nov. 27, 2015

“Dietary Guidelines: Are We on the Right Path?” The DGAs are only weakly associated to better health outcomes and reduced risk of chronic disease.
— Joanne Slavin, University of Minnesota, former member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Nutrition and Policy (2012)

“At the end of this year, the federal government will issue a new set of dietary guidelines, but what’s clear to many in the scientific community is that the dietary guidelines report is not ready for primetime. The process under which they were developed clearly needs enhancing to ensure that Americans are being provided the strongest, most accurate recommendations based on the most rigorous science available.”
— Cheryl Achterberg, The Ohio State University, former member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “Rigorous Science Must Decide Dietary Guidelines to Combat Health Epidemics”, Roll Call (2015)

“… these guidelines might actually have had a negative impact on health, including our current obesity epidemic. [There’s a] possibility that these dietary guidelines might actually be endangering health is at the core of our concern about the way guidelines are currently developed and issued.”
— Paul Marantz, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, American Journal of Preventative Medicine (2008)

“Government dietary fat recommendations were untested in any trial prior to being introduced.”
— British OpenHeart Journal (2015)

”Despite our evidence-based review lens where we say that food policies are ‘science based,’ in reality we often let our personal biases override the scientific evidence… it may be time for a new approach to dietary guidance in the United States.”
— Joanne Slavin, University of Minnesota, former member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Nutrition and Policy (2015)

“The guidelines changed how Americans eat… In place of fat, we were told to eat more carbohydrates… Americans, and food companies and restaurants, listened — our consumption of fat went down and carbs, way up. But nutrition, like any scientific field, has advanced quickly, and by 2000, the benefits of very-low-fat diets had come into question… Yet, this major change went largely unnoticed by federal food policy makers.”
— Dariush Mozaffarian, Tufts University and David Ludwig, Harvard Medical School, “Why is the Federal Government Afraid of Fat?”, New York Times (2015)

“I and a team of researchers have studied the data that these guidelines are based on and have come to the conclusion that the data are scientifically flawed. That’s because most of the data on which dietary guidelines are based were gathered by asking people to recall what they had consumed in the recent past—something people are notoriously bad at remembering.”
— Ed Archer, University of Alabama, “The Dietary Guidelines Hoax”

“The U.S. government has been providing nutrition guidance to the public since 1980. Yet 35 years later their influence on eating habits has been negligible…If policy makers expect to influence Americans’ eating habits… things must change.”
— Cheryl Achterberg, The Ohio State University, former member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “Government Food Cops are Out to Lunch”, Wall Street Journal (2015)

“The low-fat–high-carbohydrate diet, promulgated vigorously by…National Institutes of Health, and American Heart Association…and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture food pyramid, may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type II diabetes, and metabolic syndromes. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations or by rejecting clinical experience and a growing medical literature suggesting that the much-maligned low-carbohydrate–high-protein diet may have a salutary effect on the epidemics in question.”
— Sylvan Lee Weinberg, MD, “The Diet-Heart Hypothesis: A Critique. Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2004)

“Very Disappointing,” Walter Willett, Harvard Chan School of Public Health

“These Guidelines are effectively useless,” and “The Guidelines are a national embarrassment…It is a sad day for public health. It is a day of shame.” David L. Katz, Yale-Griffin Prevention Program

“The Food Cops and Their Ever-Changing Menu of Taboos”
Wall Street Journal (2015)
David A. McCarron, M.D., F.A.C.P., Visiting Professor with the Department of Nutrition, University of California-Davis.

“Government Food Cops are Out to Lunch”
Wall Street Journal (2015)
Cheryl Achterberg, PhD, Dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, former member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (2010).

“Keep Dietary Guidance Evidence Based”
Star Tribune (2015)
Joanne Slavin, PhD, Professor, University of Minnesota, former member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (2010).

“Why is the Federal Government Afraid of Fat?”
New York Times (2015)
Dariush Mozaffarian, PhD, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, and David Ludwig, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School.

“Make Science and Public Health the Focus of the Dietary Guidelines”
The Hill (2015)
Jeff Volek, PhD, Department of Kinesiology, the University of Connecticut and Stephen Phinney, PhD, MIT.

“Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Playing Politics with Our Health”
Roll Call (2015)
Jeff Volek, PhD, Department of Kinesiology, the University of Connecticut.

“Why Do Dietary Guidelines Keep Failing? Weak Evidence Invalidated by Rigorous Research”
San Diego Union Tribune (2015)
Bradley Fikes, biotechnology reporter.

“The Government’s Bad Diet Advice”
New York Times (2015)
Nina Teicholz, author and science journalist.

“Food Guidelines Are Broken. Why Aren’t They Being Fixed?”
Newsweek (2015)
Jeff Volek, PhD, Department of Kinesiology, the University of Connecticut.

“Dietary Guidelines for Americans Science or …?”
Protein Power blog (2015)
Michael R. Eades, M.D.

“Advisory Committee’s Violations of Federal Low Threaten Credibility of 2015 Dietary Guidelines”
Forbes (2015)
Glenn G. Lammi, contributor.

“Next Time Government Gives You Dietary Advice, Consider Doing the Opposite”
Reason,com (2015)
David Harsanyi, columnist, senior editor.

“The Red Meat, Eggs, Far, and Salt”
Reason.com (2015)
Ronald Bailey, science correspondent, columnist, and author.

MAINSTREAM REPORTING ON THE BMJ ARTICLE

“What the Government’s Dietary Guidelines May Get Wrong”
The New Yorker (2015)
Sam Apple, journalist and writer.

“Report Says Proposed U.S. Dietary Guidelines Aren’t Backed Up by Relevant Science”
Newsweek (2015)
Jessica Firger, journalist.

“Here’s What’s Wrong With the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Report Says”
Time (2015)
Alexandra Sifferlin, journalist.

“How Scientific Are the US Dietary Guidelines?”
Mother Jones (2015)
Samantha Michaels, journalist.

“How Strong Is the Science Behind the U.S. Dietary Guidelines?”
CNN (2015)
Carina Storrs, science and health writer.

“Expecting Scientifically Sound Nutritional Guidance from the Feds? Fat Chance”
Reason.com (2015)

“Are Fats Unhealthy? The Battle Over Dietary Guidelines”
The New York Times (2015)
Aaron E. Carroll, MD, MS is a Professor of Pediatrics, Associate Dean for Research Mentoring at Indiana University School of Medicine.

“BMJ Paper Criticizes Proposed US Dietary Guidelines”
CARDIOBRIEF (2015)
Larry Huston

“BMJ Lambasts U.S. Dietary Group for Shoddy Research”
MEDPAGE TODAY (2015)
Parker Brown, staff writer.

“New Report Asserts Major Issues with the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines”
Yahoo Health (2015)
Jenna Birch, contributing writer

“Experts Day US Dietary Guidelines May Be A Danger to Millions of Americans’ Health”
Medical Daily (2015)
Samantha Olson, MS, Stony Brook University.

“Science Used in Proposed U.S. Dietary Guidelines is Questioned”
Chicago Sun-Times (2015)
Sue Ontiveros, contributing blogger and scientist.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Unfailing, ever reliable" nutrition rating system developed by prominent experts at Yale, Harvard, other institutions quietly dropped by Big Y supermarket chain because it's "out of date"

source

Via a March 2, 2015 item in HartfordBusiness.com:
In the mid-2000s, a (Griffin Hospital-based) team developed a nutrition scoring algorithm that aimed to improve upon existing nutrition labels displayed on products. In 2008, the hospital parent's for-profit subsidiary, GH Ventures, formed NuVal LLC with Illinois-based Topco Associates to market the system to supermarkets.

Today, NuVal ratings -- displayed on blue octagonal stickers -- can be found in the aisles of Big Y, Price Chopper and a number of other grocery chains.
A 2007 29-page Griffin Hospital report called the nutrition scoring algorithm, "An unfailing, ever reliable guide to better nutrition both within and across food categories."

Via Monday's Yale Daily News (my emphasis):
[New England supermarket chain] Big Y adopted NuVal, a service that assigns numerical scores to food products based on their nutritional value, six years ago as part of an effort to promote healthy eating habits. But last April the chain dropped NuVal because of concerns that its ratings algorithm was out of date.

...Claire D’Amour-Daley, chief communications officer for Big Y, told the News that the chain dropped NuVal because the algorithm is out of date and customers are increasingly able to make savvy nutritional decisions on their own.

source

Via the website of NuVal LLC of Quincy, Massachusetts, here are the dozen members of the Scientific Expert Panel -- including Walter Willett MD, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health's nutrition department -- who developed the algorithm:
 
Chair: Dr. David Katz, Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Leonard Epstein, University of Buffalo; inventor, Traffic Light Diet
Dr. David Jenkins, University of Toronto; inventor, Glycemic Index
Dr. Francine Kaufman, USC; Former President, American Diabetes Association
Dr. Robert Kushner, Northwestern University
Dr. Ronald Prior, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, USDA HNRC
Dr. Rebecca Reeves, Past President, American Dietetic Association
Dr. Barbara Rolls, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Sachiko St. Jeor, University of Nevada
Dr. John Seffrin, President & CEO, American Cancer Society
Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University

From the same page, here's NuVal LLC's current Scientific Advisory Board:

Dr. David Katz, Ex Officio, Yale University School of Medicine
Dr. Keith Ayoob, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Gail Frank, California State University Long Beach
Dr. Frank Hu, Harvard University, Harvard School of Public Health
Dr. David Jenkins, University of Toronto
Dr. Rebecca Reeves, University of Texas School of Public Health

Do they think the algorithm is "out of date"? And what's their reaction to Big Y dropping the program?

That story's outside of my ken,* but seems like a newsworthy follow-up for another reporter or blogger.

Incidentally, according to the Yale article, NuVal was dropped by Big Y in April.

Via this screenshot today of from NuVal LLC's website, the company claims Big Y is still a client:


* The Yale Daily News article (for which I was interviewed) was primarily a journalism ethics story, part of which I reported in May.