December 10, 2018

French fries article by NY Times draws ire from American Frozen Food Institute

A New York Times’ story that refers to french fries as “starch bombs” has drawn ire from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and National Potato Council (NPC.)

You Don’t Want Fries with That,” written by Christopher Mele, quoted a Harvard professor who said potatoes are not as healthy as leafy greens. Professor Eric Rimm called them “starch bombs.”

An excerpt from the story:

new-york-times-french-fries“Potatoes rank near the bottom of healthful vegetables and lack the compounds and nutrients found in green leafy vegetables, (Rimm) said. If you take a potato, remove its skin (where at least some nutrients are found), cut it, deep fry the pieces in oil and top it all off with salt, cheese, chili or gravy, that starch bomb can be turned into a weapon of dietary destruction.”

Consuming potatoes — or anything else — in said ways are widely viewed as unhealthy. However, being topped with salt, cheese or chili are often associated with french fries.

The National Potato Council and American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) took issue with the story. The groups called it “misleading” in a joint letter to the Times.

NPC, AFFI response

“The article entitled, ‘You Don’t Want Fries with That,’ had numerous flaws about the nutritional content of potatoes.

“In particular, NPC and AFFI took issue with the article’s statement that ‘potatoes rank near the bottom of healthful vegetables and lack the compounds and nutrients found in leafy green vegetables.’ In fact, this is nutritionally inaccurate and misleading.”

Mele stated that emails to the NPC prior to the story were not returned. NPC CEO John Keeling and Alison Bodor, President & CEO of AFFI, were quoted in the letter.

“The potato has a nutrient content similar to other vegetables. One medium-sized (5.2-ounce) potato with the skin provides 30 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, 10 percent of vitamin B6, 8 percent of thiamin, 6 percent of iron and magnesium, more potassium than a banana — 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of complete protein. All of this for just 110 calories, no fat, no sodium and no cholesterol,” Keeling and Bodor were cited.

The joint letter further stated:

“The Times article also cited an ‘all-cause mortality’ study to support (its) claims.… ‘All-cause mortality’ literally means those participants who died during the study died from any cause. The death of a participant as a result of an auto accident will count the same in the data as the death of a participant as a result of heart disease. When death for any reason is the outcome, the data is not meaningful.”

The Times’ story does go on to highlight healthier ways French fries can be cooked.

POTATO HEALTH: Chris Voigt lost 21 pounds on all-potato diet

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