Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What do Milk, Apple Juice and Sponge Bob Have in Common?

All of these topics received negative media attention last week.

Harvard researchers shared Healthy Eating Plate, their version of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate food guide. Healthy Eating Plate calls for less dairy, limited meat and more whole grain than USDA’s version. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that children may not be drinking enough low-fat milk which is important for bone health. The CDC advised children aged two and older should consume more low-fat milk and milk products to avoid consuming unnecessary fat and calories. So which is it? More milk or less milk?

It’s a fact that dairy is packed with nutrients. As a result, experts consistently recommended Americans consume three servings of dairy each day as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Plus dairy tastes good! I’ll be sticking with USDA’s MyPlate, not Harvard’s version.

Next, Dr. Oz announced a shocker on his show - apple juice contains harmful levels of arsenic! What? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quickly responded that Dr. Oz tested for total arsenic amount, which isn't an accurate reading. Arsenic occurs naturally in foods in organic and inorganic forms and only certain levels of inorganic levels are toxic. According to Toxicologist Dr. Gail Charnley, “Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in the soil, water and air. It can be present in trace amounts in many foods and beverages that are derived from natural sources.” She went on to say, the FDA conducts sampling of juice and juice concentrates and that data indicate no safety concerns.

Food safety is taken seriously by farmers, food processors and the U.S. government. I know the strict testing milk goes through from farm to processor to retail and can imagine the same type of screening is required of juice. In less than an hour, Dr. Oz created a scare which will cause some to stop consuming apple juice, a perfectly safe beverage.

Finally, the University of Virginia reported that a study they conducted, with 60 children, shows SpongeBob is slowing children’s mental function. The study suggests that watching even a small amount of SpongeBob can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds. Really? How can a cartoon character have such a big impact on a child’s brain?

I’m just like many parents, trying my best to raise healthy, smart and well-rounded children. So how do we as parents sift through all the media hype, misinformation and conflicting reports about everything from food safety to child rearing and everything in between? Common sense must prevail. We shouldn’t be so quick to believe everything we hear, read or see on the Internet. When I see reports claiming apple juice is dangerous or SpongeBob will harm my children’s ability to learn, a red flag goes up. This doesn’t seem reasonable and rational to me. I question the Harvard professor who recommends we consume only one serving of dairy daily because it’s contrary to what many other nutrition experts recommend.

As consumers and parents we shouldn’t accept propaganda that uses scare tactics to shock or guilt us into going against our own common sense. I grew up consuming dairy, juice and watching cartoons and I feed my kids dairy and apple juice and let them watch SpongeBob. We all seem to be doing fine.


  1. As a new mom, I find myself getting overwhelmed with all these kinds of reports, and it was stressing me to the max. At the end of the day, I have decided to go with my gut! And if it means my baby is happy in front of Baby Einstein while I clean the horse stalls, then so be it!


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