SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – June 2003

A VAT on fat? "The British Medical Association (BMA) is discussing a proposal to charge 17.5% VAT on high-fat foods such as biscuits, cakes and processed meals … This is an outrage. Not only is the BMA seeking to impose on my pleasure 'for my own good,' it doesn't have a single good word to say about the beauty and savour of fat. It utterly ignores the fact that for most of human history, fat has been praised for its virtues and celebrated for its beauty." Richard Kline on BBC Online.

 Risky living. While few of us think about any real, cumulative risk that we might face (for example, the chances of someone our age dying within one calendar year from today), we are increasingly anxious about imperceptible risks – those that usually rank around the 'getting struck by lightning' figures. We often feel uncertain about the data relating to exposure to particular events, such as infections, toxicants and environmental changes. This uncertainty can induce irrational responses – and such responses can create further problems. Colin Berry in Spiked

Diary. One of the great modern conundrums is addressed over two pages in the Daily Mail. "Why, in an age when we are richer, safer and live longer than ever," it asks perplexedly, "are we SO obsessed with health scares?" Well, it is quite a paradox, and in the search for an answer we pick a paper at random and flick through the last month's copies. Guardian

Doctors reject 'fat tax' plan. Sir Alexander Macara, chairman of the BMA's public health consultative committee, warned: "To put a tax on any food is bound to hit the poorest and most vulnerable." Ananova

GM crops 'good for developing countries'. Genetically modified (GM) crops can contribute substantially to improving agriculture in developing countries, an independent scientific think-tank has concluded. In a discussion paper out on Tuesday to coincide with a national GM debate in the UK, the influential Nuffield Council on Bio-ethics says the technology has the potential to increase crop yields and improve the livelihoods of poor people. BBC

In sickness and in health: Atkins at large. For the best part of 20 years, legions of nutritionists, doctors, health educationists, food faddists and other busybodies have solemnly warned us about the wickedness of saturated fats in meats and dairy foods – how they make you fat, clog up the arteries, cause cancer and, indeed, virtually any illness known to man … It is too much to hope that the experts might do the decent thing and apologise for the mountains of misinformation and mischief they have generated over the past 20 years – but with luck they may be rather more circumspect in future in telling us how to lead our lives. Telegraph.

Anger over health contract plan. Patients could have to sign up to healthier lifestyles under new plans being considered by the Labour Party. Written contracts would ensure a certain standard of treatment in return for people following doctors' advice and attending appointments. A party spokesman denied smokers or overweight people could be refused treatment if they did not give up or diet. But the plans have provoked a storm of protest. Claire Rayner, president of the Patients Association, called them a "nasty piece of political chicanery". BBC.