Refined, Fortified and Out-Of-Favor

Jul 13, 2004

By George Anderson

For generations of Americans raised to believe “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies twelve ways”, the latest news coming out of Washington may serve as something of a shock.

“The Department of Agriculture (USDA),” according to a Knight-Ridder report, “is considering a recommendation that consumers should drastically cut their consumption of fortified grains, which are used to enrich a wide variety of food products — particularly white bread.”

The recommendation to reduce consumption of refined grain products was made by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion as part of the USDA’s review of the food pyramid.

If true, this is the latest in a series of bad news for refined grain products.

A recently released study from Tufts University bolstered the assertion by low-carb advocates that refined grains, even when fortified with vitamins and nutrients, are to be avoided. The study’s authors linked the consumption of white bread to obesity.

Josh Sosland of said it’s been tough. “First it was the diet crazies, then within the nutritionist community you have the whole-grain zealots and now you have
the dietary guidelines committee. It’s a nonstop drumbeat.”

Moderator’s Comment: What would it mean for bakeries and retailers selling refined/enriched grain products if the
USDA were to implement the suggestion of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and put refined/enriched grain-based products at the bottom of the food pyramid? What should
retailers do if this recommendation were to be put into effect?

Even if the food pyramid put white bread at the bottom, there will be a considerable lag time between when the recommendations are made and most consumers
of these products make a switch to a “healthier” alternative.

That said, a switch would eventually take place and it wouldn’t simply impact the packaged bread category. Many others products, including ready-to-eat
cereal, pasta, etc., are made with refined/enriched grains.

Mark Dirkes, spokesman for Interstate Bakeries, told Knight-Ridder that he believed it would be a mistake for consumers to eat less enriched grain
products but it wouldn’t be the end of the world or Interstate’s business if they did.

“We’re in the business to sell the consumer what they want and, while we make an awful lot of white bread, we also make a lot of wheat bread,” he said.
“If our customers make a shift, we’re willing, ready and able to address those needs.”

George Anderson – Moderator

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