Facts Over Fearmongering: Meet Ingles Dietitian Leah McGrath
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Consumers want to do the right thing, but busy and overwhelmed by scary warnings about the food they eat, they sometimes seek to minimize risks that don’t actually exist. Dietitian Leah McGrath wants to simplify nutrition and ease fears by sharing the facts. Leah doesn’t like the “fear factor” entering into food conversations, and she believes that Bayer, dietitians, and others in the food industry need to work together to drown out the fear mongers.
Follow Leah on her Ingles supermarket account, @InglesDietitian.
She recently visited Bayer’s RTP site at her own request, desiring to better understand Bayer’s Agriculture business and how products interact with the food supply. We spoke with Leah following her visit to learn more about her thoughts on nutrition:
How have you increased your knowledge of food production over the years?
“When I was a dietitian in Public Health in South Carolina, I started working with local farmers in Beaufort, S.C. We were one of the pilot areas for a farmers’ market voucher program. When I became a retail dietitian, I started getting invited to see different types of agricultural operations, and about five years ago I decided to start visiting some of the farmers that supply our supermarket so I could learn more.
“I began writing articles and blogs so I could share this information with consumers. To date I have visited over 25 different types of farms… everything from a 50-acre organic farm next to our warehouse in western N.C. that grows specialty crops to thousands of acres of GMO canola in Saskatchewan and cherry orchards in Washington State, and from a trout farm in the Western N.C. mountains to a sow and farrow operation for Smithfield in Eastern N.C. and a feedlot in Nebraska.”
What does a corporate supermarket dietitian do?
“It changes every day! I run social media for my retailer so that takes up a big chunk of time. I also write articles for about five different publications, answer consumer questions about food and nutrition, do public speaking and presentations, conduct store tours, organize events with our local farmers and food entrepreneurs, appear on TV and host a weekly radio program.”
Do you receive many questions about organics and GMOs? What do you advise consumers about those, and do you personally eat non-organic food and/or food that may contain GMOs?
At the Bayer RTP site, Leah toured the greenhouses and Bee Care Center and sat down for discussions with Seeds, Stewardship and Food Chain employees. (Left): Leah tours Greenhouse 5 with Bayer’s Kurt Boudonck, and (right): Becky Langer-Curry and Stephanie Darnell visit with Leah at the Bayer Bee Care Center.
“Yes, I do get questions about both. I helped craft our retailer’s online statement about GMOs, and personally and professionally have no concerns about current crops. I typically tell people that labels on the front of the package are marketing, but it’s the ingredients and nutrition facts panel that matters more. I also tell them that the USDA organic symbols are a certification for agricultural standards, not an endorsement for nutrition or food safety. I don’t base my buying decisions on labels. I wish people wouldn’t be so scared about their food, and I wish brands and marketing agencies would stop capitalizing on those fears.”
Want to Learn More From Leah?
Leah’s blog includes numerous podcast interviews with a variety of nutrition and agriculture experts and others. Check it out here.