‘Scientific’ untruths!

The recent controversy surrounding Nestle’s Maggi noodles exposes how science can be misused to arrive at conclusions one likes. For one thing, the tests for lead were done at a non-accredited laboratory meaning that the tests were conducted by unqualified chemists who did not follow test protocol. Secondly, the seasoning was also tested in addition to noodles. As per the protocol the mixture of seasoning and noodles need to be tested. There may be several other discrepancies in the mode of testing which the public may not be even aware of. And the result? The food was banned resulting in crores of rupees loss. It may take several months before the company fights court battles and recoups. This is a classic case of how science can be misused to propagate an untruth.

Not that I have any soft corner for these MNCs in the food business, I’m only saying that Maggi was banned for the wrong reasons. Maggi, like several other brands, deserves to be banned on grounds of promoting junk food. Coke, Pepsi, potato fries, bhujia, Maggi – all fall into the same category and deserve to be thrown out. In fact every packaged food including the simple looking Yoghurt is bad. Packaged Yoghurt, especially low-fat variety, contains plenty of sugar. There is a strong case for banning all packaged ready-to-eat foods. But, for God’s sake do not stigmatize them for the wrong reasons. For, if they bounce back in the future rubbishing government’s false claims, it will appear to be a moral victory and likely to win back the hearts of the gullible consumers. The price we pay, as a nation would be high health care costs for the young who are already facing the threat of life-style diseases such as diabetes and hypertension at an early age.

The Maggi episode reminds me of a web site DHMO.org, which came up with a spoof on how media can affect public perception. It lists a number of dangers of a chemical, DHMO, used widely. it says:
– Dihydrogen monoxide, DHMO, causes death due to accidental inhalation
– Prolonged exposure can cause tissue damage
– DHMO is a major component of acid rain
– Gaseous DHM O can cause severe burns
– Contamination of electrical systems can cause shock and short-circuit
– Associated with killer cyclones

As some people might have guessed, dihydrogen monoxide is nothing but H2O without which life on earth is impossible! Yet, no one can dispute any of the statements made by the web site. This spoof exposes what really happens in the real world of advertisements to mislead people. The food industry particularly excels in this. For instance, a low-fat claim on the labels of packed foods does not mention the fact of high sugar content in the food which is used to compensate for the loss of taste due to low-fat. Likewise, low carb labelled foods contain high fats and that goes unnoticed by the gullible consumers.

As someone said: Be very very careful what you put into that head because you will never ever get it out!

Consider another case of misleading media reporting: Cancer rates drop for second year: robust pipeline of medicines offer even more hope.
A second press release in the same month in 2007 says: National cancer institute predicts doubling of cancer patients.
These two press releases appeared in the same month in 2007 in the US. Can you believe that both statements are true? You will, if only the difference between rate and number is understood. Rate is the number of patients relative to a given population size, whereas, the absolute number depends upon the size of population.

Here is yet another gimmick used by the food industry: Food label on a packaged food says – This contains all natural ingredients, as if natural is always 100% safe. Likewise claims stating that a product is chemical-free has no meaning since all foods are chemicals. But these are all ploys to promote marketing of packaged foods.

Published in: on July 26, 2015 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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