Thursday, August 7, 2014

Consumer Reports Selling Out to Anti-Scientific Analysis

Grandpa Folta liked Consumer Reports, the magazine that would help him find maximum value in his oil filters and bacon bits. They have been recognized for a long time as an objective source of critical side-by-side analysis of consumer goods, and I've made decisions based on their recommendations. The magazine is still popular, and is well known for its independent evaluation of consumer goods, helping the consumer make better buying decisions.

My friend Chris alerted me to a little Consumer Credulity. The latest version shows that even an source claiming objective and technically sound analysis, is not immune from the bias of bad information.  A recent article on Milk Alternatives: Should You Sip or Skip provides a short evaluation of the various consumer milk substitutes, stuff like coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk and other dairy alternatives.

You can read about the pros and cons of milk substitutes in the latest Consumer Reports.  Unfortunately their reviewers have caved in to non-scientific influence.  That's a mighty blow to a magazine claiming to be able to make objective analyses based on evidence. 

The article lists the pros and cons of each beverage.  They basically throw all of them under the milk truck for one reason or another, mostly for trace amounts of heavy metals that are biologically inconsequential, or for having close to no nutrition. Soy milk is reported to have some unique "cons". 

The recommendation is not just scientifically wrong, it is an ad for the Non-GMO Project! 

Consumer Reports makes two critical mistakes: 

1.  It gets the science wrong by saying that it is "grown from genetically modified seeds" as a "con", when there is absolutely zero scientific evidence to why being GM is a detriment.  

2.  The magazine then endorses organic and non-GMO verified (the Non-GMO Project) brands.  

Isn't Consumer Reports supposed to make decisions based on evidence?  Isn't endorsing a different brand based on no accurate scientific information in stark contrast to how this magazine should we evaluating products?  

This is a major blow to their credibility.  If they can't get this simple science right, how do we trust them with more important products like medicines or tires?   


Lynn K said...

Should I ask: Where are all the long-term, independent, yada yada safety studies on the consumption of hemp milk?

Dylan Moses said...

Isn't soy milk one of those soy products (like tofu) that requires vegetable soy beans which don't really have any soy varieties?

I could be wrong here.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't there be a con for environmental impact under almond milk ?

Anonymous said...

I'm no scientist, but I'd rather see a product proved safe before use it rather than use it because we haven't found any evidence of harm. There is a huge distinction between those approaches.

Why not err on the side of caution, and disclose to people what is in their products. Let them choose what suits them best.

Chris said...

@ Anon

You can't prove safety, that's the impossible hurdle put up by the anti's of anything. No matter how many studies showing an absence of harm come out, they still lean on that unshakeable rod. What you can do and what has been done is a large amount of studies from which you can narrow down a conclusion.

Science isn't there to prove things. It is there to move closer and closer to a positive conclusion based on evidence. The science in that way, and a vast majority of the scientific community, says GE food is safe but not that it is proven safe. Be sure to not put your seatbelt on since it hasn't been proven to never fail...

On labeling... It's a little more complicated than just slapping on a label, the whole supply chain would need to be altered. You already have the ability to avoid GE foods through organic or non-GMO labeled products. Why should everyone else pay for that ability unless they want to?