August 10, 2017
By: Rachel Konrad, IF Chief Communications Officer
Impossible Foods was the subject of a dangerously deceptive article in the New York Times by the reporter Stephanie Strom.
On Aug. 8, when the original article was posted online, I submitted a list of problems to be corrected, retracted or otherwise clarified: mischaracterizations, errors of fact, sneaky omissions and truly lazy reporting.
For instance, Strom repeatedly declined to speak to the CEO, General Counsel, any scientist or any food safety expert at Impossible Foods. We extended an open invitation to see our safety testing in person -- yet Strom repeatedly refused to visit the company’s headquarters or even enlist colleagues in the San Francisco bureau of the Times just north of our headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Instead of asking the CEO relevant questions about product safety or regulatory compliance, the ostensible subjects of her article, Strom lifted another journalist’s quote from the CEO’s on-stage appearance at a San Francisco gathering of venture capitalists from three months ago. Talk about out of context: The CEO was discussing the economics of “lab meat” from animal cells -- a completely different technology.
Strom didn’t even do the “freedom of information act request” (FOIA) on which she based her biased article. As she admits, she received a curated document dump from the anti-science group ETC. (Strom’s been publishing ridiculous, fear-mongering articles planted by extremist groups including ETC Group and Friends of the Earth for years. While credible news organizations cast a skeptical eye on pathetic scare tactics from these radicals, Strom’s their go-to platform and has developed a hackneyed template, even quoting the same experts over and over, no matter if their areas of study are irrelevant in a different article.)
It’s no wonder the Times refused to call or quote any relevant experts I suggested (including former FDA commissioners, the world’s top expert on the heme molecule, the leaders of NGOs such as The Good Food Institute, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Foundation, World Resources Institute, FoodTank, Union of Concerned Scientists and at least three universities with professors who are food safety experts.) Why bother reporting when you can post a preconceived screed?
In her initial article online, Strom described Impossible Foods’ CEO and Founder Dr. Patrick Brown as a “chemist.” After I asked for an official correction (he’s a biochemist), an editor said the Times “added three letters” to the online version without an official correction and said, “Biochemistry is just a subset of chemistry.” Seriously?
After many emails and hours on the phone this week, Times’ editors refused to issue any corrections. Maybe they’ve had enough: Strom has had eight corrections on the past 11 articles -- just since May 1. This would be grounds for termination in many newsrooms.
Due to the Times’ refusal to issue corrections, we are taking it upon ourselves. Please see this copy of the article -- misinformation on the left, truth on the right.
In the two days since the article was published, many people have asked how an otherwise respectable newspaper could publish such an irresponsible article. I can’t speak for the Times, but feel free to ask: [email protected] or [email protected] or @ssstrom on Twitter.