WaPo Laments Scientific Illiteracy While Incorrectly Calling A Tomato A Vegetable


The Washington Post published an article Thursday intended to show the widespread scientific illiteracy of Americans, but only ended up exposing its own.

WaPo food policy writer Caitlin Dewey cited an online survey from the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy, claiming that about 7 percent of the American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Yet in the process of lamenting Americans’ ignorance, Dewey used an infographic in her article that incorrectly categorized tomatoes as vegetables.

It’s a common mistake, but botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit because it grows at the base of a flower and contains seeds. Tomatoes are commonly called vegetables in cooking, however, because they are savory, not sweet.

“For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate,” Dewey wrote. “If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.”

Dewey goes on to castigate much of the U.S. public for “confusion about basic food facts,” and claims that indifference to agricultural information has huge consequences for the milk-drinking public.

The WaPo story also originally misstated the origin of the survey, claiming that it came from the National Dairy Council while it was actually commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

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