SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – February 2004

A surrogate outcome…science is about data, and papers, which scientists spend their careers finding flaws in; it isn't about taking things on faith, or on the word of experts. That, all too painfully, is at the heart of the public's misperception of science, and of bias in research, and that's something to be fought, as the House of Lords report on science and the media recommended: by training scientists to deal with the press appropriately. Guardian

Elvis lives, MI5 murdered Diana, MMR is dangerous. That the conflict of interests behind the Wakefield crusade has been outlined is welcome. It is a tragedy, however, that it has come after six years of ceaseless scaremongering. Times

 We do enjoy a good health scare. There will be widespread, if publicly unacknowledged, rejoicing in the British medical profession over the discomfiture of The Lancet for having published flawed and possibly tainted research concerning the alleged connection between the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the development of childhood autism…The reason that there will be rejoicing at the egg on The Lancet's face is that the tone of its editorial commentary is so unrelentingly sanctimonious that it makes the late Ayatollah Khomeini seem positively broadminded. Its piety is, however, without the excuse of religious belief. Telegraph

Public health campaigns 'are a waste of money'. The Department of Health is spending millions of pounds on public health campaigns without any evidence they actually work, an official report will conclude this week. Independent

'Fat tax' has slim chance of success. "The World Cancer Research Fund shares the Government’s alarm at the obesity crisis now facing the UK … Introducing fiscal incentives to choose healthier foods might seem an attractive option but it needs to be based on good science. Increasing the price of burgers and other foods that are high in saturated fats might help to prevent heart disease, but simply focusing on all fat may have little impact on heart disease or obesity. The less well off, who are most at risk, could be hardest hit, and because fat consumption is similar between rich and poor, this could actually increase the disparity." Martin Wiseman, Medical and Scientific Adviser, World Cancer Research Fund. Times.

Happy eaters? Not our children. We live in strange times, and it’s doing strange things to our children’s bodies and to their relationships with food and with people. Childhood obesity figures are soaring, but so are anorexia and other eating disorders among children and adolescents, though these seem to have fallen off the media agenda. What and how our children eat is making too many of them too fat, too thin, too sad. And myriad well-intentioned "health" messages are backfiring or are being undermined by adult behaviour. Times.

! Officials apologise for blown up obesity figures. The government today apologised for a gargantuan error on obesity figures, admitting that contrary to its claim earlier this week that there were 900,000 obese incapacity benefit claimants, in fact there are only 900. This means that the average amount paid out in England every week is £70,965 rather than the £70,965,000 health minister Lord Warner claimed. The Department of Health blamed an "administrative error" for the mistake. Guardian.

Fat tax has slim chance of beating obesity, say critics. Critics expressed scepticism yesterday about leaked government proposals for a fat tax to suppress our insatiable appetite for high-fat food. Both health watchdogs and the food and drink industry were doubtful that imposing extra duty or VAT on food "with poor nutritional standards" was the most effective way to defuse the country's obesity "timebomb". Glasgow Herald.

Fighting Hunger Today Could Help Prevent Obesity Tomorrow, Says FAO. A new study says fighting hunger today could help prevent obesity tomorrow. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says reducing hunger in pregnant women and children could prevent them from becoming overweight and obese later in life. VoaNews.

Developing Countries Reject Obesity Plan. A group of developing countries rejected the science driving the United Nations' effort to fight obesity worldwide, saying … the dietary recommendations are based on flawed research and "not worthy of serious consideration." … The scientific report underpinning the global obesity strategy recommends that governments strive to limit their people's intake of sugar and fat while encouraging increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. The developing countries said the report was shoddy and urged better nutrition education, not arbitrary limits of specific types of food. News Channel8.

Health Check. How much is it safe to drink? For anyone who likes a couple of pints after work, a large G&T when they get home or a few bottles of Burgundy at the weekend, this is a question for our times. Research published last week, which received widespread press coverage, purported to give some answers … The data appeared to contain much that was good news for drinkers yet the paper was couched in negative terms with warnings about the high risk of heart disease to women who drank heavily. Jeremy Laurance in the Independent