Grain Foods Foundation to ring bell for folic acid seal

by Jeff Gelski
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ORLANDO, FLA. — The Grain Foods Foundation’s offensive attack will go full steam in January. It will involve the exclusive use of a new folic acid seal, ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange and having often-quoted Dr. Judith Reichman, an obstetrician/gynecologist, speak in favor of grain-based foods to media outlets. Print advertising will continue to feature the twist tie as a symbol for the industry.

The G.F.F. detailed its plans Oct. 9 at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Orlando. The March of Dimes has granted G.F.F. members exclusive use of the new folic acid seal on their products from January through the end of 2008, said Kristin Patterson of Mullen, a public relations firm employed by the G.F.F.

"It’s going to be on your product before it’s on anyone else’s," she said.

Other industries, such as those for orange juice and spinach, then also may use the seal after 2008, Ms. Patterson said.

The G.F.F. will plan celebration activities in January when the new seal is launched for mainstream media. Members of the G.F.F. and the March of Dimes will be on hand for the ringing of the New York Stock Exchange closing bell, which will take place one day during Folic Acid Awareness Week.

Dr. Reichman, based in Los Angeles, will serve as a spokesperson for the benefits of folic acid. She appeared regularly on the "Today" show on NBC.

Print advertising will feature twist ties, which the G.F.F. wants to become as well known as a symbol for the industry as the milk moustache is for the dairy industry, Ms. Patterson said. One print ad will feature a blue twist tie on a baby’s I.D. bracelet, signifying enriched white bread’s fortification of folic acid.

The Food and Drug Administration mandated the enrichment of folic acid in 1998. Since then, the number of neural tube defects at birth in the United States decreased 26% over the past 10 years, said Dr. Alan R. Fleischman, M.D., senior vice-president and medical director for the March of Dimes.

"This is a tremendous public health success story," he said.

More work needs to be done, he added. Neural tube defects still affect about 3,000 pregnancies annually in the United States. A March of Dimes survey revealed in 2006, 83% of women between the ages of 25-34 were aware of folic acid, meaning another 17% had never heard of folic acid.

The presentation at the I.B.I.E. allowed the G.F.F. to speak about its accomplishments since its founding during the low-carbohydrate phase.

"Everything we did was defensive," said Judi Adams, M.S., R.D., and president of the G.F.F. "Now that we’re on the offensive, we want to reinforce the health benefits of grain."

Consumption of grain products in the United States has stabilized at about 134 lbs per person annually. The G.F.F. has generated 1.2 billion media impressions since February 2005 with the annual numbers increasing each year.

According to a Harris Interactive poll, 12% of those surveyed in 2005 agreed that bread provided health benefits. By 2007, the percentage had more than tripled and neared 40%.

This year the G.F.F. responded to the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories," which was released in September. Gary Taubes, the same writer who promoted the Atkins low-carbohydrate diet in a New York Times article in 2002, wrote "Good Calories, Bad Calories."

Two weeks before the release of Mr. Taubes’ new book, the G.F.F. sent out releases requesting media outlets to contact a member or members of the G.F.F. advisory board when preparing stories on the book. The G.F.F. sent out a similar release on Sept. 25, the day the book hit the market.

Ms. Adams said several media outlets contacted G.F.F. advisory board member Dr. Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Virginia. The G.F.F. wants to set up a debate between Dr. Gaesser and Mr. Taubes, but Mr. Taubes has not yet agreed to it.

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