When we refer to “a study” done at some prestigious university, we’re usually talking about scientific research in which the effects of a particular substance on animal or human subjects have been carefully evaluated over a period of time, and then published in a peer-reviewed professional journal. A number of such studies cited in this blog, for example, have suggested a link between high fructose corn syrup consumption and obesity, diabetes and other ailments.
But that’s not the sort of “study” that recently made headlines (and even made the Today Show) after being conducted by a team of “researchers” from Cornell University.
Their 40-page paper, “Ingredient-Based Food Fears and Avoidance: Antecedents and Antidotes,” was published not in any kind of scientific or medical journal, but one entitled Food Quality and Preference. According to its description, “This study investigates food fears that are ingredient-based, focusing on the case of high-fructose corn syrup” and was based on “results of a national phone survey of 1,008 U.S. mothers.”
But then, the lead author, Professor Brian Wansink, doesn’t exactly fit the conventional image of a scientist. He’s rather a member of the university’s “Applied Economics and Management Department” with a Ph.D. in food psychology and consumer behavior. But he is the director and founder of a “laboratory” — the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, which “is independently funded by grants and consumer groups” and “focuses on better understanding consumers and how they relate to foods and packaged foods.”
Oh, and one other thing. This particular Ivy League “study” was funded by the Corn Refiners Association, the industry group representing manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup. Or so we were informed in an e-mail Monday night by Dr. Aner Tal, an associate researcher on the project.
Are you starting to get the picture?