Celebrity chefs, churnalism and some fat facts

Something called the Fat Panel caught my attention today – and probably also caught yours – with a report about Celebrity Chefs and fattening recipes.
This Panel is made up of an independent group of experts (many with impressive multiple letters after their names) who want to help tackle the obesity issue by making us all more aware of how simple dietary changes could add up to valuable weight loss.
In their own words the Fat Panel says “objectives are:
• Educate the public on the fat facts so they can make informed decisions about their diets.
• Provide an independent/objective source of information about the important role and benefits of oils and fats.”
It kicked off today in suitably attention-grabbing media-savvy way by having a go at the recipes devised by celebrity chefs.
And a quick Google search shows it was an approach that paid-off, with just about every national newspaper swallowing and regurgitating without bothering to seek out one essential ingredient I’m going to add later!
Celebrity Chefs Could do Better , says that many of the TV cooks have recipes which contain more than 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance for saturated far.
Dairy products such as butter and milk get a particularly brisk whipping.
The report says “Anthony Worral Thompson’s porridge with apples and crunch may sound healthy, but one portion contains 20% of a woman’s GDA for saturated fat. The Fat Panel recommends to replace 600ml of whole milk with skimmed milk which cuts a portion down to just 5% of a woman’s GDA of saturated fat.
“Similarly one portion of Gordon Ramsey’s sticky toffee and chocolate pudding has 115% of a woman’s GDA for saturated fat.The Fat Panel recommends to replace the lightly salted butter with sunflower spread and double cream with thick single cream it cuts the saturated fat down to 40% of a woman’s GDA. So you can have your cake an eat it!”
As regular readers of this blog will know, celebrity chef indulgence is an issue that has prompted many a posting before – Nigella’s Christmas excesses being the last such gluttonous telly serving to provoke me.
So this sensible, if rather finger-wagging, advice should be welcomed as a timely and entertaining way of presenting important health advice.
But it turns out this official sounding panel is actually an organisation partly funded by a major margarine manufacturer.
Now, there’s no mention of this fact anywhere on the website – just an unobtrusive link to the The Margarine and Spreads Association in the “useful links” section
Does this matter a dollop?
Is good advice, good advice whoever pays to spread ( no pun intended) the word? Or is it just a (non-sugar coated) marketing message deployed to boost consumer confidence in a basic commodity?

In response to my inquiry, a Fat Panel spokesperson told me this afternoon; “They are funded by an Unrestricted Educational Grant and other brands which does include Flora. However the grant only pays for their time – they have no sway on their influence as the panel is completely independent.”
Fine, it isn’t difficult to comprehend that experts can retain their independence in this way – so why not be up front about it? A lot of what they say is obviously good advice but I want to know who “they” are exactly.
The simple transparent act of placing a link and explanation prominently on the website would surely install confidence?
After the erosion of trust in banking “experts”, property “experts” et al, don’t we all deserve to be aware of just who is speaking when taking on board advice to do with that most precious commoditity of all – our health?
* Fat Panel member and dietician Sian Porter robustly defended the Panel’s independence on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme earlier today, pointing out the strict code of conduct diet experts like her adhere to. (You can listen again to that interview here and, of course, submit your own opinions on the issue below.)

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