Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Australia: Offensive food fanatic and the evils of cake

I have always had a fair deal of respect for nutritionist Rosemary Stanton but realised yesterday that this is only because I haven’t been paying attention.

The Irwin children above with their mother and the cake mix, Bindy on the right

Not sure if the rest of you caught it, but Mrs Stanton has launched a pretty out-there tirade against Bindy Irwin’s new commercial deal as the public face of a particularly sinister company. Not Union Carbide or Exxon or British Aerospace but the baking products conglomerate Greens General Foods, one of the shadiest players in the evil cake trade.

We’re not speaking here of the mythical drug also known as “cake”, made famous in the British news parody Brass Eye, but package cake mix, made from flour, sugar, baking powder, and flavourings such as cocoa, vanilla and orange. Greens has been peddling the stuff for years. Pushing it onto time-poor mums, getting kids hooked on it from an early age, using its addictive sweetness and energy-giving qualities to lure them into eating it by the slice after school - even hiding it in their lunch boxes so they can take it onto school grounds and get a fix at little lunch.

Well, Mrs Stanton has now blown the whistle on this practice - and taken aim at those irresponsible Irwins as part of the deal.

The first troubling thing about Mrs Stanton’s spray is the small matter of Steve Irwin’s death. That tragedy should make the Irwin family pretty much immune on the grounds of decency from any kind of frivolous sledging. It should also be factored into the thinking of any would-be critic as perhaps being the very reason why Terri Irwin needs to form a business partnership with a reputable family company such as Greens.

Mrs Stanton managed to negotiate her way past the taste question as she had a bigger target in mind. Cake. Mrs Stanton took issue with the images of Bindi and little Bob helping their Mum bake a cake in the kitchen, and even licking the spoon. “The message that comes across to kids is “it’s OK to eat cake because Bindi Irwin does” - I think it’s very sad,” Stanton said.

“Children are very trusting, so they actually think Bindi wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t right.” “I think it’s a bit of exploitation of her as well because she wouldn’t possibly be old enough to understand the impact that this could have.” “It’s wrong to target kids in trying to sell stuff to other kids. It makes it very difficult for parents to then resist the pleas of their children.”

It’s a good thing Mrs Stanton doesn’t know our address, or the addresses of our many mates with young kids, as we’ve all adopted a totally reckless attitude to child-rearing where we regard baking the odd cake with the kids as enjoyable family time, a great way to introduce them to cooking, especially with a good packet mix because they can do it all by themselves, with the added bonus that you can eat something tasty afterwards or take it down to the park for a picnic. We’re lucky DOCS [a famously bungling government child-welfasre agency] haven’t come around.

It’s cloud cuckoo land stuff which wouldn’t matter if not for the fact that Rosemary Stanton, author of 25 books on diet and nutrition, is on the Federal Government speed-dial for advice on health and wellbeing issues, one of those superficially innocuous right-thinking people who only has all our interests at heart.

(Googling her last night I found an interesting link to a lecture of hers on “Ethical Eating” on the ABC’s Fora website, where she suggested food prices could be artificially inflated so that our farmers no longer had to export produce, which would not only make food production more sustainable, but solve the “starving pensioner” problem once and for all.)

The other thing about the cake issue - Terri Irwin has only agreed to the deal because Greens has made a sizeable contribution to Steve’s ongoing wildlife and conservation protection programs, and are using their products to increase childrens’ awareness of endangered species through school bag tags. Which if you’re Rosemary Stanton probably just proves that, like any other pusher, cake dealers will do anything to get people hooked.

Anyway here’s a link to Greens Traditional Chocolate Cake. Buy some and feed it to your kids.


A wonderful and instructive heart transplant story

A BRITISH girl who had a donor heart grafted onto her own after suffering cardiac failure as a baby has had the transplant removed and is living a healthy life with her own heart. The case of Hannah Clark is thought to be the only one in the world where a child's failing heart recovered enough for the donor organ to be removed, the British surgeons told reporters ahead of their report in The Lancet journal.

"The possibility of recovery of the heart is just like magic,'' Professor Magdi Yacoub of Imperial College London, said. Prof Yacoub treated Hannah from the beginning and co-authored the journal paper.

Hannah, now 16, suffered as a baby from severe heart failure due to cardiomyopathy, a problem with the muscle of the heart, and in July 1995, when she was two years old, doctors transplanted a donor heart next to hers. The new organ soon took over much of the functioning of her own heart and Hannah began to recover.

However, she suffered from a type of cancer known as EBV PTLD, a common side-effect of the drugs given to transplant patients to stop their immune systems rejecting new organs. She was treated with chemotherapy and other drugs but the cancer kept returning. Doctors reduced her dosage of immunosuppression drugs to stem the disease, but as a result, her transplanted heart began to fail. In contrast however, her own heart recovered and began functioning normally.

In February 2006, the team decided to remove the donor organ so the immunosuppression could be stopped - something that had never been done before. Just over three years later, Hannah has completely recovered from the cancer and her heart is functioning normally.

Prof Yacoub and the team responsible for her remarkable treatment said her case offered vital clues to the study of transplantation, heart recovery and malignant disease. The report's co-author Victor Tsang said the research was also useful in the development of temporary artificial hearts for children suffering from cardiomyopathy. "This is an important piece of knowledge as we are now gaining more experience with mechanical support for the failing heart in children,'' he said.

Hannah had to take about seven tablets morning and night for the immunosuppression treatment, went through several rounds of cancer treatment, suffered kidney failure and at one point was left barely able to breathe. At one point her family were told she would not survive the next 12 hours.

Prof Yacoub praised her courage and that of her family, saying: "The lesson is don't give up.'' Hannah's mother Liz thanked the donor family whose five-month-old baby daughter provided the transplant heart, saying: "They lost a child, we've gained our child - how can I ever thank them?''


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