Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Frankenfood linked to E. coli deaths!

Not really. But imagine if the spinach believed to be behind the outbreak of deadly E. coli had been genetically modified spinach. Of course the "green" opponents of genetic engineering would have a field day with it. It would be trumpeted all over the world how GM food was "killing" people. But the spinach linked to this outbreak was organic and the "greens" love organic so they are deathly silent in this case.

Now I have nothing against organic though I won't eat it myself. I find it too pricey and know that there are no additional health benefits from eating it. I won't begrudge others the right to eat it if they wish provided they respect my right to eat frankenfoods if I wish.

The number infected in this outbreak is now up around 130. The rise should slow significantly and stop any hour now. And we are lucky that only one person died from this outbreak (that I know about). But one television station is reporting that the federal government has said this outbreak of E. coli is the 20th such since 1995 which is linked to lettuce or spinach. I hope that figure is wrong. And I feel sorry for the farmers here, especially the ones who had nothing to do with the spinach in question, who are hurting. Some, no doubt will go out of business.

But I also remember the environmental extremists who made up the Alar scare with bogus science and lies to push their agenda. No one got sick from the use of alar which was a preservative, not a pesticide like some anti-science green groups claimed. Apple producers suffered because of an orchestrated media campaign that scared consumers with lies. No one had got sick. No one died. Unlike the E. coli outbreak we have just seen. People lost their jobs, businesses went under because of the alar fraud. The problem exists because organic food requires manure. Some is applied directly and some through composting. Composting usually kills the E. coli bacteria. But it doesn't always. And some new strains of E. coli are heat resistant so the composting process may not kill it especially as routinely applied.

So what should we do? First, don't apply the daft "precautionary principle" which says don't act unless something is proven safe. Organic food will never been proven "safe" all the time. Nothing is. That is something the "greens" need to learn. Everything has risks. Organic has risks and so do regular foods.

Use a "cost/benefit" perspective instead. For the vast majority of people, over the majority of time the benefits from eating vegetables far outweigh the risks. This is true for conventionally grown crops and equally as true for organic crops. Neither has the benefit over the other except the cost advantage for conventional foods.

Don't buy the bullshit that "natural" is good for you. Sometimes it is and sometimes it most certainly is not. E. coli is very natural. Using man-made fertiliser has some risks and so does using manure. Over all I think the risks are less with man-made. If you think otherwise fine for you -- buy the more expensive stuff. I don't mind.

Remember that what is true about organic and convention crops is also true for genetically modified crops. There is no health risk from GM foods. If a food were genetically modified and grown with manure it would present exactly the same risks as that of organic foods grown in the same manner or for conventional produce using manure.

Remember that eating vegetables saves lives. For one poor woman her vegetable killed her due to unusual circumstances not routine circumstances. Even with 20 outbreaks of E. coli since 1995 we are talking about something that causes problems for a very small number of people nation-wide. And the lives saved by eating vegetables, especially due to their anti-carcinogenic properties, well outweigh their risks. When health experts say the crisis is over eat your veggies. It will be good for you and help get an industry back on it's feet where it should be.

And in the future don't pass judgement on the eating preferences of others. Don't try to ban conventional, organic or GM products. Don't assume that one is better than the other. If you are convinced one is better then go with it but leave others free to make their own choices as well. In this panic we need to keep perspective and use common sense. But that is the very opposite of what "greens" advocate when it comes to genetic modification.


Jamie Oliver: what a 'tosser' [jerk]

St Jamie's school-dinners crusade returns tonight, providing yet another unhealthy serving of food fears with a side order of parent-bashing bile.

The man in the checked shirt wobbles towards the bus, ice-cream cone in hand, not sure whether to keep licking or run faster. Then disaster strikes: he drops the cone. As he looks down in horror, the bus pulls away. Unperturbed, the fat feckless f*** scoops up the ice-cream from the ground and stuffs it in his mouth.

The man in the checked shirt is Jamie Oliver, all padded up in a fat suit. And the scene is the trailer for the latest phase in his ‘school meals revolution’, Jamie’s Return to School Dinners, which airs tonight on Channel 4. The implication is that unless we all respond to Jamie’s call to arms, we’re ignorant scum condemning many of today’s children to a life of disabling obesity and chronic ill-health.

Giving children the option to eat relatively fresh and nutritious food during the school day is an attractive one. But Oliver’s crusade is based on distortions about the quality and importance of children’s diets, and a contempt for any parent who doesn’t fit in with his idea of how they should be raising their kids.

This contempt no doubt extends to Julie Critchlow and Sam Walker, two mums who have started a ‘junk food’ run for kids at a school in Rotherham, northern England. They’re taking orders and cash through the school fence and returning with food from local takeaways. ‘This is all down to Jamie Oliver. I just don’t like him and what he stands for’, Walker told the Sun. The Sun, never afraid to take a cheap shot, described the women as ‘junk mothers’ who exhibit ‘the kind of feeble parenting that turns kids into fat, lethargic burger addicts in the first place’ (1). Oliver is not the only one who thinks that parents who won’t toe the line are neglecting their kids.

In tonight’s programme, Oliver doesn’t hold back. ‘I’ve spent two years being PC about parents. It’s kind of time to say if you’re giving very young kids bottles and bottles of fizzy drink you’re a fucking arsehole, you’re a tosser. If you’ve giving bags of shitty sweets at that very young age, you’re an idiot.’

The programme demonstrates that running a one-man revolution is hard work. In Lincolnshire (a relatively poor farming county) he discovers that many children aren’t offered hot meals at all because school kitchens were closed under the last Conservative government. He tries to get local businesses to fill the gap – and then discovers that even those model ‘healthy schools’ he set up down south are running into problems. Kidbrooke School in the London borough of Greenwich, the place where it all started in the first series of Jamie’s School Dinners, is losing thousands of pounds because it no longer sells crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks at break times. The kids buy their treats on the way to school, handing their money to local shops rather than the school. The extra government money provided after the last series is insufficient to cover the shortfall.

Oliver seems to spend his whole time firefighting. Up in Lincolnshire, he arranges for a local pub to provide meals to nearby primary schools. That means mass catering in a totally unsuitable kitchen before parents and taxi drivers deliver the food to the schools. Unsurprisingly, hygiene standards at the pub are well below what would be expected in a school, the food quality suffers as the chef tries to eke out a profit, and parents drop out as their initial enthusiasm fades. In the end, the pub pulls out, no doubt thinking they needed the whole loss-making operation and bad publicity like a hole in the head.

Oliver makes his life a lot harder by his prejudices about processed food and local production. Why a Panini filled with meat and a couple of sprigs of basil is any better in terms of nutrition than a ham sandwich made with white sliced bread is never explained. He insists on emphasising small and local provision – even when it is clearly unsuitable – over trying to persuade the big caterers with their economies of scale to alter what they provide. The whole operation is doomed to be unprofitable, so businesses quickly lose interest. His schemes only keep going because dinner ladies work unpaid overtime – which they eventually tire of, considering that even when they’re getting paid, it is only the measly minimum wage.

So Oliver’s tone becomes increasingly intolerant. He is unable to comprehend why others are not as motivated as he is. ‘This is not the Jamie Oliver show, this is not a fucking pantomime.… I’m here because I truly care. I’ve got other shit to do’, he says. When a mother drops out of the Lincolnshire pub scheme because her little boy isn’t keen on the pasta and rice served up, Oliver suggests dismissively that they have a chat with the nutritionist who came up with the menus, implying that she was letting her son down. And when a young teacher is found with some junk food ‘contraband’ in her bag, he charmingly suggests: ‘That’s no way to live, darling. You’ve got to have some pride in yourself.’

Oliver’s crusade is the product of the panic over obesity and children’s diets and his campaign only helps to stoke these fears further. Far from being an unwelcome critic, he is helpfully touting the New Labour line on food, health and the inadequacies of parents. No wonder that when he meets Tony Blair at the end of the latest programme, Blair says he will happily extend the increased funding for school dinners for another three years. Oliver leaves triumphant, perhaps forgetting that at the start of the show he was moaning that the same amount of money was inadequate.

If we were facing an impending health disaster, changing the kind of meals children are served during the school year would make little impact. But in fact, as we’ve noted elsewhere on spiked, no such disaster looms. A diet of Turkey Twizzlers, chips and beans is not perfect, but it is perfectly adequate. Oliver’s horror stories about children vomiting their own faeces and dying en masse before their parents have no basis in reality.

As for adult eating habits, they are not determined in the school canteen. Children have always been rather conservative eaters who prefer all the ‘wrong’ foods, yet experience shows that they still grow up healthy and that their tastes mature. If our childhood eating habits mattered that much, most of us would have long since perished. What Oliver fails to comprehend is that he could provide haute cuisine and lots of kids would still refuse. Rejecting school meals in favour of bunking off down the chip shop is just another minor act of teenage rebellion.

While Oliver has been received with almost universal praise in the media, there are signs of a backlash from catering staff sick of working longer hours and parents sick of being lectured on how to bring up their kids. If the Rotherham example is anything to go by, maybe eating junk food will become more than teenage rebellion – perhaps it’s a way for parents to tell the patronising ‘tosser’ where to go, too.


Vitamin D wins again: "Taking vitamin D tablets may almost halve the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, finds a study in the latest issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. The study used information from two large, long-term American health surveys, including 46,771 men aged 40 to 75 and 75,427 women aged 38 to 65. Between the two studies there were 365 cases of pancreatic cancer. By examining diet records, researchers found that taking vitamin D supplements at the recommended daily intake of 400 International Units (IU) reduced the risk of pancreatic cancer by 43 per cent compared to not taking vitamin D supplements. Those who took a lower dose of 150 IU per day had a 22 per cent reduced risk of pancreatic cancer. But there was no added benefit from taking more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin D."

Aspirin stops miscarriages: "Women who have experienced several unexplained miscarriages have a better chance of delivering a live baby if treated with aspirin or another blood thinner to prevent blood clots. The formation of blood clots, thrombosis, is considered one possible cause of recurrent miscarriage. However, it's not known whether the prevention of thrombosis could increase live birth rates. Researchers from the Sheba Medical Centre in Israel compared the effect of preventing blood clots with aspirin or enoxaparin - a form of heparin - in 104 pregnant women with a history of unexplained recurrent miscarriages. The live birth rate was over 81 per cent in both groups, exceeding the expected live birth rate of 40 per cent to 60 per cent among women with recurrent miscarriages."


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.


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