Combatting bad press

On Nov. 1, The Western Producer published a story under the headline, “Canadian pulses attacked in India’s press.”

The story detailed how the Times of India, the country’s largest English language newspaper, published a story a week earlier warning readers about a government statement on glyphosate in daal (split, dried pulses) imported from Canada and Australia. Daal is a staple food in India.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSIA) had issued an order to test imported pulses for the presence of glyphosate.

The Times of India story said, “if you cannot imagine going a day without having some (daal), you should seriously rethink your decision as you might be consuming some harmful chemicals with your food.”

It concluded that pulses from Canada and Australia “are seriously laced with toxic ingredients.”

That is not what the FSSIA said, though it did warn glyphosate residues might be “adversely affecting the health of consumers.”

In journalism, this is known as torqueing a story.

We would like to have written off this story as a bit of hyperbole. After all, below the daal story online is another warning, “Kissing can REALLY make you sick! Watch out.” We’ve known this since 1970, when Dionne Warwick warned in the song I’ll Never Fall in Love Again that with kissing, “you get enough germs to catch pneumonia.”

On Nov. 8, the WP published an editorial under the headline, “Canada must do more to defend its food quality,” lamenting the attack on Canadian grains in India and in Italy, where durum has been wrongly condemned by some farm groups as “contaminated” with glyphosate.

WP Managing Editor Michael Raine had a chat with a couple of fellows at the Times of India, who agreed that a follow-up was necessary.

The Times appears to have listened.

On Nov. 16, the paper published a story headlined, “Imported (daals) and pulses now safe for consumption, says FSSAI report.” It said that of “319 consignments tested, glyphosate residues were found in only seven consignments and that too was within the prescribed MRLs.”

Still, in the digital world, it’s known that stories expressing fear travel far and wide quickly, and stories repairing the damage travel not so far, not so wide and not so quickly.

At least it’s out there that Canada’s grain is safe in India.

If only Canadian durum got such respect in Italy.

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