“Don’t listen to online nutritionists, berries are great!” says registered nutritionist, correctly… but working for berry company, via OnePoll

Good information from a commercially-compromised source now, with the news that many folk-wisdom and social-media-promoted notions of the nutritional value of fruit and veg may not be true:

Does eating carrots really help you see in the dark? Myths about food debunked

Carrots help you to see in the dark, oranges are the best source of vitamin C and avoiding fruit in the evening are food ‘facts’ we get completely wrong, according to experts.

A study of 2,000 adults has revealed many are mistakenly believing commonly-held beliefs when it comes to the food and drinks they consume.

But now, nutritionists have shed some light on the truth.

Source: Mirror, 21st June 2019

This is one of the more complicated variety of PR stories: on the one hand, we have a registered nutrition busting some common misconceptions about fruit, and sharing some evidence-based advice. But on the other hand, that advice comes courtesy of a press release from a company with skin in the game:

While more than a fifth of adults think juicing your fruit is as nutritious as eating it whole, registered public health nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire, who is working with Love Fresh Berries, said vital fibres and nutrients are removed in the juicing process.

She said: “We are in the information era yet it seems that ‘over’ information could be confusing the lay public.

“We must remember to utilise information that is evidence-based rather than trusting ‘popular’ followers.

While it is great to see some sensible information being shared about fresh fruit and veg, it’s a shame for that information to be used primarily as a delivery mechanism for the marketing message of a company with a commercial interest:

Nicholas Marston added: “There’s so much information online, it’s often hard to tell what’s true and what isn’t.

“With the growth of social media we have seen a huge rise in unqualified influencers giving nutritional advice to followers, even telling them not to eat fruit or berries because of high sugar content, or because they’ll rot your teeth when in fact, berries are nutritional powerhouses which have many health benefits.”

This might be one of the often-overlooked drawbacks of the PR game: nobody would deny that there’s general news (or at the very least comment) value in having someone debunk common misconceptions and share genuine information… but the news media is currently so set up and incentivised to churn pre-packaged press releases into ‘news’ articles, even good information often comes with a commercial angle and a company looking for return on investment.

What, do we think, is the main factor that motivated Love Fresh Berries to hire 72 Point to generate survey data via OnePoll (which may therefore be of dubious and commercially-compromised accuracy) in order to place this story (by-lined to a 72 Point employee) into a national newspaper? Was it an altruistic desire to correct dietary inaccuracies, or a commercial desire to encourage more people to buy the berries they sell?

That we can’t say one way or another – or, more likely, what the blend was of both motivations – may not matter in this case, when the outcome is something desirable: less dietary misinformation. But this story does not exist in a vacuum, it is part of an ecosystem of bullshit-data-and-a-hook-as-news, and while this is certainly the respectable end of that spectrum, it helps legitimise the much murkier end.

Ultimately, it is often the same companies involved in both ends of that spectrum – bear this story in mind the next time a news article with a nutritionally-dicey message can be traced back to 72 Point, or any other PR company.