Saturday, April 10, 2010

Opinions, Facts, and Assholes Like Me.

I'll try to make this brief, or at least, brief for me.  I've gotten into a lot of heated exchanges with people over the last month about food science and food issues.  I expect it, especially since the public has been indoctrinated to not trust a) corporations or b) anything mass produced.

That's fine to be skeptical, and as a matter of fact, it's most scientific to be skeptical.  There has to be a point, however, when you are presented with facts or given the technical reality that negates your point of view, that you cede to reason.

All too often people retreat and hide behind this mantra, 'Well, that's my opinion'.  Well, sometimes your opinion ceases to be an opinion and simply becomes dogma, a point of faith.  I hate onions.  Beer tastes like moldy iced tea and urine.  Black chicks that are into rock music and girls with foreign accents are always hotter.  These are opinions I hold. 

The sky is blue.  Organic food is more nutritious than conventional.  Cold brew tea bags diffuse no faster than regular tea bags in cold water.  These are not opinions, because these can be proven true or false.

I was tweeting with someone and they put Food Science in snarky quotes, as if to say it isn't really science.  I think that may be part of the problem.  People don't trust the source of the information.  To clear this up real quick let me just say a couple things about food science.

There is no giant building called Food Science where everybody in the food industry meets and decides how to fool the public and fake research.  Food Science is made up of industry professionals from researchers to executives and of academic professors and grad students.  There are no corporate g-men looking over a master's student while she/he works on their thesis study.  Large food companies have hundreds of researchers, technicians, and scientists that all did the work of learning about food science to get their degree before working for industry.  It's not some conspiracy, designed to deceive you.  Treat what a food science professional tells you with no less respect than a geologist telling you about rocks or an astrophysicist telling you about space.

And when we present the evidence and the facts and the studies, accept that you may no longer have an opinion, and that you may have just become wrong.  We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts.

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  1. Heard of "ClimateGate"? People are suspicious of scientists because their credibility has been blown. When data is manipulated "facts" become subjective. I'd trust a Tyson or Monsanto scientist about as much as I'd trust a RJ Reynolds/Marlboro scientist.

  2. ClimateGate was a fraud of a fraud. New reporting on that shows that the data is not wrong.

    Huge difference between big tobacco and the food industry. They hired scientists to try to defend their product. The food industry employs food scientists to develop product and research food looking for new applications and ways to cut certain steps to streamline a process. There are also food scientists emloyed in academia, doing independent research. These scientists don't answer to any corporate entity and yet come to very similar conclusions on nearly everything. Why? It's for the same reason that a corporate scientist and an academic researcher throwing a ball into the air will get the same result. In both cases, the science is the same - gravity. It's no different with food science. We know how proteins, sugars, fats, and additive work with other foods and with people because a lot of work has already been done and the results reproduced.

  3. Didn't someone do an investigative report a few years back that found that Philip Morris USA was sharing research with Kraft Foods (at the time they were under the same parent co.) on the addictive nature of their (PMUSA) products? In this case, I think it was brain research to see how the brain reacted to certain flavors. Now, I'm not a food science major, so I will have to rely on you, Sam, to tell me just how much a food scientist studies when it comes to how foods and other ingredients (genetically modified/engineered or not) act on the various parts of the body? But it seems to me that facts, depending on what they are, can be used in different ways. A fact may be a fact, but how that fact is used is what I and many others are concerned about.

  4. Absolutely, they look at that kind of stuff. A lot of research goes into colors and the emotions they bring out in people, smells and how they link to flavor. A lot of marketing work to see what color to make a product label and what font to use. The whole industry's goal is to put out products that the customers like, so customer perception is very important. This is why you see a lot of companies now advertising all natural or no preservatives on some products. it isn't because the products are better, it's because it's what the people want.

    It's the same reason they have Modified Atmospheric Packaging for meat. When meat is first cut into steaks, it is purple because of the way myoglobin reflects light. After more exposure to oxygen, the meat 'blooms', producing a bright red color that people mistake for blood. It's actually oxymyoglobin. But from there, it quickly changes to a brown color due to metmyoglobin. The purple and the brown steaks are perfectly fine, but due to customer perception, they are considered bad. So the industry uses M.A.P. to maintain the blood color that customers look forward to.

    Also, as technology progresses, food scientists reevaluate foods and their effect on the body to make sure they are safe or identify ways to increase the nutrition.


Put your comment here, kind sir/madame. Try to cite sources when stating facts and refrain from off topic comments or hateful/nasty rhetoric.