Candy Story Not Dandy: ‘NYT’ Corrects It

By: Joe Strupp

The New York Times Saturday published a story that corrected statistics in a previous story on the Food and Drug Administration?s refusal of candy shipments from Denmark after Danish officials, who were not reached for comment for the original story, complained.

The original story, published July 12, reported that the FDA had refused entry to 520 Danish candy shipments, but the real number was much lower, 82, the new story reported.

?The [original] article, which described the F.D.A.?s rejection of shipments to the United States of food and other products for violations of sanitary, safety or labeling standards, detailed problems with shipments from India, Mexico, Denmark and the Dominican Republic,? the latest story reported. ?It was based on an analysis by The Times of inspection records in an online F.D.A. database.?

But, the story went on, ?because of flaws in its analysis method, The Times miscalculated the number of shipments refused from those countries from July 2006 through June of this year.

?In doing the analysis, The Times incorrectly tallied the number of violations cited by the F.D.A., and reported that figure as the number of refused shipments,? the story continued. ?Because more than one violation may be involved in each refused shipment, that approach resulted in an overcount, exaggerating the export problems.?

The correction story went on to note, ?When the data was re-analyzed, it showed that the number of candy shipments rejected from Denmark had not been higher than the number of seafood shipments rejected from China, as the article stated. The number of shipments rejected from China was also misstated; it was 331, not 391.?

The new analysis also determined that other statistics cited were incorrect, including ?that the F.D.A. had refused 1,782 shipments of all products from India, not 2,620. The number from Mexico was 1,560, not 1,876; the number from China was 1,901, not 2,723; and the number from the Dominican Republic was 862, not 887.?

The Times reported that its analysis flaw was discovered after officials from the Danish Embassy in Washington challenged the findings. ?The Times was not successful in reaching a Danish official authorized to comment on the F.D.A. statistics before the article?s publication,? the paper reported.

But the paper added that officials from other embassies and the F.D.A. did not question the statistics when they were reached for comment prior to the original story?s publication.

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