Friday, August 13, 2010

Yet another schoolgirl starves herself after British health chiefs send letter saying she is 'fat'

No apology, either. Bureaucracy rules

A distraught schoolgirl burst into tears and has been refusing to eat after being branded 'overweight' by health chiefs. Katie Owen, 11, was left so devastated when she read the letter from Barking & Dagenham NHS in Essex that she immediately decided to starve herself.

The shattered youngster cried her eyes out and called herself 'too fat' after receiving the results from the National Child Measurement Scheme, which records children's Body Mass Indexes (BMIs).

Katie, who was previously a pupil at Hunters Hall Primary and will start at Eastbrook School, Dagenham, next month, was measured in June. She is 5ft, tall for her age, and weighs 110 pounds - putting her BMI at a healthy 21.5. Yet the NHS has branded her overweight, even though she is a borderline case.

Katie's outraged mum, Joanne, of Dagenham, said: 'I think it's absolutely disgraceful. My daughter is slim and healthy. 'To put her through something like this when she is reaching such an important time in her life is just cruel. 'So many teenage girls starve themselves and become anorexic, which is really unhealthy and traumatic for the whole family. 'I couldn't bear it if that happened to my daughter.'

Katie and her pals received their results last week, but she was the only one told that she was too heavy. 'She is absolutely not fat,' said Joanne, who said Katie had been refusing to eat. 'Katie is tall for her age. A good few inches taller than most of her friends. 'And she suffers from problems with her joints. Katie has been under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital for years.'

Katie's condition means she cannot always exercise regularly but the schoolgirl has always eaten healthily, avoids junk food and plays sport when she can.

Katie's case follows that of five-year-old Lucy Davies in February, who was told she was 'overweight and unhealthy' by the NCMP. They told the primary schoolgirl she may have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer as her body mass index (BMI) was outside recommended guidelines... by one per cent.

A Barking & Dagenham NHS spokeswoman said that they could not comment on individual cases regarding the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) due to confidentiality.'

But public health consultant Dr Justin Varney said: 'The NCMP letters are intended to encourage parents and carers to ensure their children eat well and take exercise and to let parents know what support is available to them. 'If parents, carers or the child concerned are worried about their child's results, we recommend that they talk to their GP or practice nurse.'

He added: 'We do not endorse crash diets or weight loss for children. 'Overweight children should maintain their weight as they grow taller and grow into their ideal weight.'


The evils of pork scratchings

Comment from Britain

She looked at me with a glare so fierce that you would think I had offered her a lucky dip in a bag full of cyanide pills. The scene was a small and cosy rural pub and I had misguidedly offered a bag of pork scratchings to an elegant lady at the next table.

What is it about pork scratchings that has transformed them from an over-the-counter treat into the crack cocaine of bar snacks?

Scratchings may never have been a high fashion food but, until very recently, they haven't been thought of as life threatening.

At this point, I should come clean. I like pork scratchings and have made a broadcast for Radio Four's Food Programme that tries to put their case forward and right some wrongs.

There's something great about those morsels of salty, fatty, crispy pig skin and, despite all the rage against them, scratchings are hanging in there. Indeed, during the football World Cup, sales of pork scratchings rose by a huge 50 per cent.

This shouldn't come as a surprise - everyone knows the crackling on a joint of pork is the most highly-prized component of the Sunday dinner. And that's because crackling is the posh version of pork scratchings.

Pork crackling has long been a favourite indulgence. The famous essayist Charles lamb (1785-1824) wrote a piece entitled A dissertation Upon Roast Pig, in which he describes how crackling came about.

A 60g packet of pork scratchings may contain 375 kcal; 29g of fat; 0.65g of sodium (a quarter of our recommended daily intake). And if you scoffed three packets it would probably do you no good.

These back- of-the-pack numbers also read the same whether you are a petite lady or a hulking male. They do not take into consideration whether you eat scratchings once a week or once a year. In short, they are a very blunt instrument indeed.

Perhaps we should be looking to an older concept, even older than the pork scratching itself - the concept of moderation.

Granted, it is much harder to aspire to and relies on willpower, but so many delicious and delightful foods that may be bad for you in excess are less frightening when enjoyed in moderation.

It wouldn't hurt to champion moderation when it comes to drinking, television, driving and other appetites and pastimes, too.

Even the makers of something so resolutely non-PC as the pork scratching feel pressured to try to adapt their products to suit the health-conscious mood. The original (and genuine) pork scratching is made by taking thin strips of pork skin with the fat attached and deep-frying them until they are crispy. The resulting crunchy morsel is dusted with salt and put into a bag.

Then came a 'nouvelle' scratching which was created by frying the rind twice - the second frying renders, or melts away, more of the fat. This version tends to be billed as 'pork crackling' or 'pork crunch' on the bag.

The latest milestone on the road to a healthier pork scratching is something called 'puffed' pork. This pork is deep fried three times until very little fat remains.

It is like a Spanish delicacy of fried pork rinds called chicharrones. You'll also find this kind of scratching in the southern states of America.

The problem is that it's long on texture and short on flavour. What the health police do not understand is that part of the appeal of the classic pork scratching lies in its wickedness.

It tastes greasy and porky. It tastes salty. Attributes which make it the perfect pub snack. If you tamper with these qualities you rather miss the point. The healthier you make a scratching, the less satisfaction it will deliver.


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