SIRC Media Watch Archive
The Pick – December 2001

Editor-at-large: Janet Street-Porter. So, farewell to 2001 and goodbye to Cranks, leader of the lentil revolution and the food chain responsible for more flatulent afternoons than I care to think about … It's all a load of rubbish really. Vegetarians are like animal rights protesters – they can't just get on with their chosen dreary approach to life; they have to scream it at the rest of us, as if that's going to bring us to our senses. Independent.

Reporting the facts, not fiction. "Recent media coverage about the threat from biological weapons has highlighted how inaccurate and misleading reports can damage the public interest. Blatant untruths, such as statements that anthrax is a virus (and presumably, therefore, untreatable with antibiotics; The Guardian, 10 October) or that it 'kills 90 per cent of victims' (The Mirror, 26 September) can clearly raise unwarranted anxieties." Patrick Bateson in Excellence in Science.

Poorer children miss out on healthy food. About two million children in the UK are living in families who cannot afford to eat healthily, says a report. Low income families know what healthy food they should buy but many struggle to afford even the basics, according to the charity Child Poverty Action Group … the report challenged the myth that low-income families have only themselves to blame for food poverty. BBC.

Scientists discount link between MMR vaccine and autism. Autism in children is far more common than previously recognised but there is no proven link with the combined MMR vaccine, a study concludes today. The review, by the Medical Research Council (MRC), states that current evidence does not support the theory that the measles, mumps and rubella jab is to blame for some cases of autism. It accepts that previous epidemiological studies are imprecise and leave open a "theoretical possibility" that the MMR vaccine could contribute to autistic disorders in a small number of children, but the report states that it seems most likely that autism results from a range of causes, with the strongest evidence being for a major genetic component where several genes interact to create susceptibility to the condition. Independent.

The pleasure principle…the one time of the year when my colleagues make me cringe is upon us once more. The cause? The number of pieces on How To Drink Safely. Please! Is there anyone over four who doesn't know by now that, ideally, we shouldn't drink on an empty stomach and that we should alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water? And is there one hack who doesn't write this rubbish without a cold compress on their forehead, a sachet of Resolve sitting uneasily in their upset stomachs and a mouth that mutters "Never again!" as they check the word-count one more time? Julie Burchill in the Guardian.

Childhood overweight does not lead on to adult fatness. A long term follow up study has thrown doubt on the assumption that fat children become fat adults. Wright and colleagues (p 1280) followed up 412 members of a 1947 birth cohort until the age of 50. Although children with high body mass index aged 9 were more likely to have high body mass index as adults, they did not have higher percentage body fat. This suggests that it may be build that tracks to adulthood rather than obesity. Teenagers with a high body mass index at 13 were twice as likely to have a high body mass index as adults but did not have higher risk factors for disease. For every level of adult fatness, those thinnest in childhood tended to have the highest risk. BMJ.