Paucity of nutrition and food safety 'news you can use' reveals opportunity for dietetics practitioners

J Am Diet Assoc. 1998 Feb;98(2):190-3. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(98)00047-9.


The media is consistently ranked by the public as their primary source of nutrition and food information. To address the question of what the public is hearing about food, nutrition, and health through the news media, the International Food Information Council Foundation commissioned the Center for Media and Public Affairs to conduct a content analysis of nutrition and food safety stories. The study examined media coverage from 53 print and electronic news outlets during a 3-month period from May through July 1995. Specific criteria were applied to select the sample of food and nutrition stories (n = 979) by length of coverage during the reporting period. Coverage related to food policy or regulation, food programs, individual food companies or products, advertising or marketing, and economic adulteration or tampering were excluded from the sample. The analysis of media coverage of food and nutrition topics revealed a twofold emphasis on dietary fat over other topics. Consumption of dietary fat was mentioned in almost half of all reports, apart from discussions of body fat, weight, or obesity as a health issue. The content analysis also showed an inverse relationship between media stories of foods by food group compared with the recommended number of servings in the Food Guide Pyramid. During an era in which Americans receive their health, nutrition, and food messages from the media rather than from health professionals such as physicians and dietitians, there are multiple challenges for communicating with the public. Our media research and its findings offer approaches for dietetics practitioners to use when providing nutrition and food recommendations and education for clients and the public. These include communicating science, providing context, reinforcing basic messages and guidelines, and promoting action and behavior change to clients and consumers.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietetics
  • Food, Organic
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Mass Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Nutritional Sciences / education*
  • United States


  • Dietary Fats