The news (and that word is used loosely) that fad diets and too much salt aren't good for, but eating breakfast is are three revelations that it's hard to imagine why something that bills itself as the 'World's Greatest Newspaper' would consider three of the top stories of the week.
Iraq inquiry? What Iraq inquiry?
'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is one of the oldest old wives' tales going. Not much of a 'secret' then. So what's behind this 'story'?
Predictably enough, some 'research':
Dieticians Nedi Kaffa and Dr Katrina Campbell, of the Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s, carried out a review of the scientific literature on breakfast cereal consumption.
It doesn't take much time on Google to find out some interesting facts about Kaffa and Campbell's research.
Firstly, it came out on 10 June 2009, so it's not even new research.
But more significantly, it came out under the title 'Getting the goodness of breakfast'. It would be an astonishing coincidence if that wasn't related to the:
'Getting the Goodness of Breakfast' campaign, brought to you by the Breakfast Cereal Information service (BCIS)
The Breakfast Cereal Information Service is part of the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers (ACFM), which represents all major manufacturers of breakfast cereal products in the UK.
Ah. Now it becomes clear. Like the Express' front page about tea being good for you which happened to be based on research by someone on the Tea Advisory Panel, which is funded by the Tea Council, now we have the same thing with cereal.
And it doesn't end there. The Express also quotes Chris Seal, Professor of Food & Human Nutrition at Newcastle University in the story. He reveals:
'Those who skip breakfast generally have an overall less healthy diet'.
What the Express don't mention is that Prof. Seal happens to sit on the Breakfast Panel. The what?
The Breakfast Panel is a new, independent, panel which can answer all your questions about the benefits of breakfast. The Panel provides independent and objective information about the important role of breakfast.
The double use of the word 'independent' suggests they may be protesting their independence too much. And that's not surprising given that the panel is:
currently funded by an unrestricted educational grant from the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers.
And - as you might guess from the name - the ACFM:
represents the interests of all major manufacturers of breakfast cereal products in the UK.
And that's not all. Towards the end of Jo Willey's article, she quotes:
Lynne Garton, an independent nutritionist.
Hands up who thinks 'independent' might not be entirely accurate...
Garton is the Director (and founder) of a company called Alimenta which bills itself as a:
health and nutrition consultancy offering specialist knowledge to companies working in the food and nutrition sectors...which offers the exceptional combination of clinical and marketing skills to help strengthen companies' nutrition activities.
In other words: PR.
And given the Express' subhead that:
Wholegrain cereals keep you slim and fit
It's no surprise to see Garton has been a:
Nutrition consultant for the Wholegrain for Health Campaign; responsible for communicating the health benefits of whole grains through consumer media.
As well as writing the health professional content of the wholegrain website (www.wholegrain.co.uk), Lynne has also conducted a number of radio interviews, been quoted in the press and written consumer leaflets on the subject of wholegrain and health.
Which makes her anything but 'independent'.
Oddly enough, she also happens to sit on the Tea Advisory Panel and has written factsheets for the Tea Council website. And the tea people had their recent front page Express story. And now she's involved with this cereal one. It's all very cosy, isn't it?
(Towards the end of writing this post I discovered Anton at Enemies of Reason had already covered similar points on Garton in his post Is blogging journalism?)