NPR fail: Reports almonds have fewer calories than thought, fails to mention study was funded by California Almond Board

Photo by Magic Madzik (Madzia Bryll) via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I’m mostly a fan of NPR’s food blog, The Salt, but a recent post left me sorely disappointed. Allison Aubrey reports on a new USDA study, which concluded that the currently listed caloric content of almonds is too high after determining that some of the fat in the nuts isn’t absorbed by our bodies. Aubrey notes:

Needless to say, the Almond Board of California is pretty excited about the calorie study. It has not directly petitioned the federal government to adjust the official USDA calorie database, but the group is talking informally with federal officials, Almond Board’s Chief Scientific Officer Karen Lapsley tells The Salt.

“If we can improve the information that’s on a food label, I think everybody is better off,” Lapsley says.

What Aubrey fails to point out is that the study’s funding came from two sources, as the original scientific report acknowledges in its author note: “Supported by the USDA and the Almond Board of California.”

Imagine that! A trade group is promoting the results of a study that casts its industry in a more favorable light, and coincidentally the study was funded by the same trade organization. Why worry, though? It’s not like food marketers have overreached ever before in promoting their products, right? Right!?

To be clear, I’m not questioning these particular scientific results (though one study isn’t necessarily the end-all and be-all), but instead I fault Aubrey for the lack of thoroughness in her reporting. Scientists disclose their funding sources so that readers can make their own judgments about how big a grain of salt to take with the findings; I expert NPR to help its readers and listeners do the same.


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