SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – September 2004

Food: the new religion that eats into our souls . Scare stories in the past few weeks have highlighted salt, sugar and even salad as potential killers. Our anxious correspondent tries to find out what we can safely eat. The past few weeks have been full of extraordinary, bewildering food warnings, with confusing and contradictory claims about what is safe to eat. The only certain consequence has been to turn what should be a great pleasure into, increasingly, a source of unease and guilt. Times

'Snacks not cause of obesity in children'. The booming industry in chocolate bars and crisps, often blamed for the rise in childhood obesity, is not in fact responsible for weight gain in children, according to research by scientists at Harvard University. Independent

obesity  Milk overload in obesity war. A glut of school milk is being thrown away because of a lack of Government "joined-up thinking", the head of one of Wales' largest school meal providers claimed yesterday. Sue Eakes, Cardiff County Council's operational manager for catering services, said schools were "awash" with milk following the introduction of three separate healthy eating strategies. Her comments came during a seminar to discuss the alarming problem of childhood obesity … Ms Eakes pointed out that Welsh schoolchildren can now start the day with milk-drenched cereal as part of school breakfast club schemes, before being given additional milk as part of the free school milk scheme and then being provided with even more milk as part of lunchtime healthy eating schemes. She said, "They're awash with milk and they're throwing it away. I could take you to schools across the city where they're throwing milk away. It's coming out of their ears! Western Mail.

Watchdog seeks controls on scary gene tests. Strict controls are needed to prevent the "marketing of fear" by companies developing gene tests which do not with any certainty predict that a healthy person will develop diseases. Guardian

Jabs and junk science. Parents-led anti-vaccination groups are becoming hugely influential. But the information they provide is often extremely dodgy, argues Michael Fitzpatrick…At a time when many parents are deeply distrustful of official advice, groups such as "The Informed Parent", wWhat doctors don't tell you" and "Jabs" (Justice, awareness and basic support) purport to offer the sort of impartial information parents are looking for, and they are being listened to. Their voices are tagged on to almost every news report about vaccinations. Sadly, considering how much impact they have, the information they offer is often suspect.Guardian

Science and Health Media Watch The wonder drug that can transform a story. The press's fascination with health scares and miracle cures is enough to make you feel queasy…Medical journalism is a branch of news journalism, living in the world of government policy and advice, of health care and treatment, of research and development. It is here that two cultures collide. Research into new drugs and forms of treatment is a slow and on-going process of hypothesis, experiment, testing and, sometimes, breakthroughs. It is incremental. Journalism is about events, outcomes, results, news. How often do we see the words "miracle cure" in popular newspapers, or "breakthroughs", or "new hope for"? How often do we read about any number of "dangers" in food and drink, the air we breathe, the activities we undertake? Is it surprising that the reaction of the non-experts (most of us) ranges from advanced hypochondria to a weary ignoring of all advice on the basis that everything is risky? Peter Cole in the Independent