Thursday, January 04, 2007

Food fanatics impossible to satirize

I have had satirical comments about the evils of cheese and butter at the bottomn of each day's postings here for some time now. But reality has caught up with me. Even cheese (and lots of other mainstream stuff) is now under attack in the Unhinged Kingdom. Have they gone too far this time?

New advertising rules that will officially label cheese as "junk food" were condemned yesterday by the dairy industry as unfair, misleading and counter-productive. Under regulations coming into force this month, broadcasters will be banned from advertising cheese during children's television programmes or in shows with a large proportion of child viewers, such as The Simpsons and Hollyoaks. The ban is part of a government drive to crack down on junk food adverts on television, which is designed to reduce the exposure of children to foods high in fat, salt and sugar. It follows evidence that TV commercials have an indirect impact on children's eating behaviour and are contributing to the obesity epidemic.

However, the dairy industry says the rules, which are being introduced by the television regulator Ofcom, are a nonsense. Under the nutrient profiling model used to distinguish junk food from "healthy" food, cheese is officially labelled as more unhealthy than sugary cereals, cheeseburgers, double chocolate chip cake and full fat crisps. The industry points out that if breast milk were covered by the rules, it too would be classed as junk food.

Dan Rogerson, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cheese, branded the model as "simplistic and counter-productive". He said: "How preposterous that Ofcom restrictions should be based on a model so flawed as to take cheese off the air, while diet cola, which has no nutritional value whatever, is left firmly on children's menus. It has to be perverse that while milk may be advertised, a wholesome product made from milk - cheese - cannot."

Ofcom published its draft conclusions on junk food adverts in November and is expected to release its final report within weeks. Its initial report went much further than expected. It proposed banning the advertising of all foods classified as high in fat, salt and sugar during programmes made for children under 16, on dedicated children's channels and during programmes with a higher than average proportion of child viewers. However, the ban only covered specific foods, not brands. So while McDonald's cannot advertise burgers during children's programmes, it could promote its restaurants.

The rules also proposed a ban on cartoon characters for adverts aimed at primary school age children shown at any time of the day. The most controversial part of the proposals is the use of the nutrient profiling model drawn up by the Food Standards Agency. The model assesses the fat, sugar and salt content in a 100g or 100ml serving of a food or drink - rather than a typical serving.

The food industry says the use of the FSA model has led to anomalies. Tomato ketchup, for instance, contains a high proportion of sugar and salt and is counted as a high fat, salt and sugar food - even though most people only eat a small amount with a meal. Marmite, which contains 11 per cent salt, is also counted as junk food - even though most people eat only a few grams on bread.

The British Cheese Board says the typical portion size of cheese is 30g to 40g, the size of a small matchbox, not the 100g used in the FSA nutrient profiling model. If a typical portion sized was used in the model, most cheese would be exempt from the ban, it says. Nigel White, a spokesman for the board, said: "Cheese is one of the most nutritionally complete foods and can play an important part of a healthy balanced diet for children of all ages."


Foods caught by the junk food ban:

Marmite, Flora Lite, half-fat cheddar cheese, Dairylea triangles, bran flakes, camembert, sugar-coated puffed wheat, instant hot oat cereal, Jaffa cakes, reduced calorie mayonnaise, multi-grain hoop cereal, half-fat creme fraiche, takeaway chicken nuggets, potato waffles, Greek yoghurt (sheep), ham, sausages, bacon rashers, low-fat spreads, peanuts, cashew nuts, pistachio nuts, peanut butter, raisins, sultanas, currants, low-fat potato crisps, olive oil, butter, pizza, hamburgers, tomato ketchup, chocolate, brown sauce, cola, lemonade

Most lethal killer found

Scientists believe they have captured the most lethal creature on the planet in north Queensland. The tiny but deadly irukandji jellyfish is believed responsible for killing American tourist Robert King off Port Douglas five years ago.

In a piece of detective work worthy of Hercule Poirot, stinger expert Lisa-Ann Gershwin has spent years scouring north Queensland waters for the highly venomous and near-invisible culprit. Her breakthrough came on New Year's Day when the previously unknown, peanut-sized creature, trailing four tentacles, ghosted under her spotlight about 8pm off the jetty at Mission Beach. Comparing stinger cells taken from Mr King at Cairns Hospital in 2002 with the newly-discovered species, researchers found a perfect match.

"This is the killer," Dr Gershwin said. "We knew it existed but we have never before captured one live and healthy. These are a wicked, highly venomous, dangerous animal, that drop for drop are the most lethal on the planet."

The high-profile death of Mr King off Port Douglas in 2002 sent shockwaves through the state's multimillion-dollar tourism industry and led to a taskforce to investigate the little known irukandji. Irukandji syndrome, caused by other species of the tiny jellyfish, is known to cause excruciating back pain, sweating, and nausea, but until the 2002 incident, not death. "We know almost nothing about these animals," Dr Gershwin said. "But now, with this new specimen, we can start to find out more."


Hot water best for jellyfish sting

Hot water is the most effective way to relieve the pain of a jellyfish sting, a study has found. Doctors and medical students at Busselton Hospital in Western Australia purposefully stung themselves with jellyfish to compare four popular treatments - ice, vinegar, aluminium sulfate and hot water. "Hot water was the only successful treatment, relieving 88 per cent of the pain," the team wrote in the latest Medical Journal of Australia. "Other treatments were incomplete and temporary."

They said that sting patients treated with hot water at about 45C got "significant" pain relief in 4-10 minutes, and the heat also appeared to stop inflammation. "There is an urgent need for knowledge of this simple remedy to be spread," said study author, Dr John Taylor. "And there is the potential that it could even be lifesaving when used with more serious jellyfish stings in the north of Australia."


The original journal article is here. The treatment seems to work for a variety of jellyfish species and even other marine toxins


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.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

Trans fats:

For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The use of extreme quintiles (fifths) to examine effects is in fact so common as to be almost universal but suggests to the experienced observer that the differences between the mean scores of the experimental and control groups were not statistically significant -- thus making the article concerned little more than an exercise in deception


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