SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – February 2002

When anorexia is kids' stuff. Dolls and plenty of toys were once the sole requirement for a happy childhood. Not any more. These days, style matters even in the playground, which means that an image obsession can strike when children are barely out of nappies. Eavesdrop on a conversation at a primary school and it is just as likely to revolve around the latest fashions as favourite cartoon characters. Girls’ birthday parties are now often held at nail bars or spas, rather than at the local fair or McDonald’s. Sunday Times.

Orthorexia-When the urge to 'eat right' goes wrong. All right, everybody, eat your vegetables. Now eat ONLY vegetables. Now, eat ONLY vegetables that have just been picked--and then make sure you chew each mouthful at least 50 times. Steven Bratman started out on a sensible diet. He ended up suffering from a newly defined disorder--"orthorexia nervosa," an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Reuters.

Milking the public's food fears. Protesting Starbucks – Coffee, Tea or rbST? Don't expect Starbucks' founder Howard Schultz to show up anytime soon in a "Got Milk?" commercial. His company, accused of spiking lattes with "tainted" milk, faces a nasty spectacle at its coming shareholder meeting … While innocent consumers might be silly enough to believe milk is good for you, a coalition of activists claims the opposite … Let's hope that Schultz and company recognize that acting responsibly means rejecting extortionist threats and, once and for all, rejecting hysteria as the measure of corporate social responsibility. San Francisco Chronicle.

The profits of doom. Matt Ridley celebrates Bjorn Lomborg, the environmentalist brave enough to tell the truth - that the end is not nigh … It cannot be Lomborg’s politics that annoy them. He is leftish, concerned about world poverty, and no fan of big business. It cannot be his recommendations: in favour of renewable energy and worried about the pollution that is getting worse. Vegetarian, he rides a bicycle and approves of Denmark’s punitive car taxes. His sin - his heresy - is to be optimistic. Spectator.

Measles hits an all-time low in the US. Measles cases dipped to a record low in the US last year, but the 86 reported cases – most related to infections contracted outside the US – underscore the importance of keeping up vaccination rates, according to federal health officials … Vaccination prevents most cases, and in the US, children receive two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine starting around age 1. Reuters.

Science council dismisses GMO concerns. An advisory body on science has dismissed as unwarranted concerns about foods and drugs produced by genetic engineering. It argues however for a "comprehensive information centre" for the public and a "fully independent biotechnology ethics committee". The independent Government advisers, the Irish Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, released its report on biotechnology yesterday. It described it as a key area "to sustain Ireland's economic growth and to enhance Ireland's capacity to become a knowledge based economy". Irish Times.

Modern health Myths. Superstition and sloppy science are leaving us increasingly confused and panic-stricken, unable to separate fact from fiction … Food myths are fuelled by all sorts of vested interests. While we are quick to identify commercial ones, single-issue pressure groups may have ideologies every bit as entrenched and be every bit as fixated on the commercial bottom line. "Many people have been cynically led to believe that organic food is better for you and the environment," says Peter Marsh of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, but the research simply doesn't stack up." Vogue Magazine

Putting fear before facts. The Royal Society, the UK's premier scientific body, last week launched a report pointing out the total lack of evidence that genetically modified (GM) crops cause harm to humans. But you'd never have guessed that from the media coverage. Spiked!.

MMR chief blames the media for jab 'errors'. "One of the first patients I saw [as a young doctor] was a 12-year-old boy who had come into hospital to die because his brain had been so devastated by the long-term effects of measles," he said. "And one of the first babies I had seen in the neonatal unit was one who had been damaged by congenital rubella. I don't need to see any of those again, but that will be the consequence of this drive for single vaccines." Independent.

Why parents are ignoring the rational experts. 'A healthy mistrust of experts is no bad thing. Scientists are not infallible and it is right that society constantly questions the evidence on which politicians make their public-health pronouncements … But what we perhaps should be aware of is our own deep-seated inclination to concentrate on individual horror stories at the expense of the bigger picture … It is perhaps why the rational explanation offered by science over the safety of the MMR vaccine hits a brick wall with many parents whose antennae are fine tuned to anecdote rather than mere data. Yes, many intelligent, middle-class parents know full well that it is irrational to ignore the scientific evidence and reject the triple jab, but the irrational side to their nature whispers something more powerful in their ear.' Steve Connor in the Independent.

Tough it out. MMR is back in the prime minister's questions and the news headlines: it is a public health issue which simply will not go away no matter how many times government ministers rehearse the now familiar arguments. This is no longer a question of calculating risk on all the available scientific evidence (of which there is a voluminous quantity, from more than 90 countries that use the triple vaccine), it has become a test for this government about how to handle a crisis in public confidence. Guardian