There’s plenty to worry about in today’s world. So instead of addressing imagined or exaggerated threats – such as the unsubstantiated connection between Nutella and cancer – journalists should direct their attention toward real threats. This was the message shared by the daily newspaper Hamodia in its article, The Risks of Medical Myths. Consumers, the article states, need to “read past the headlines, to the part that describes the research behind the claims.” Here you can determine if this fake news is actually worthy of attention.
This article is in response to the health scare prompted by a study conducted by the European Food Safety Authority. The organization was analyzing potentially cancer-causing contaminants in food products made with palm oil. “However, what was done with their findings was completely irresponsible,” the article states. It caused articles to circulate through the internet connecting palm oil-containing Nutella with cancer.
In truth, the beloved hazelnut spread (which wasn’t even mentioned in the EFSA study) is safe to eat. The article explains: “… most people don’t consume anywhere near enough palm oil in their diets to be at even minimal risk. Nor is there is any epidemiological evidence linking palm oil to cancer in humans. All they found was that laboratory rats could get cancer if they ingested such substances in huge quantities. Yet, these nuances were lost in the translation to mass media.”
The article went on to compare this “threat” with others, such as the 1959 cranberry scare. In November of that year, a nationwide panic ensued when Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Arthur Fleming announced that aminotriazole, a weed killer sprayed on cranberry products, was carcinogenic. This caused schools to ban cranberry products, restaurants to remove them from their menus and families to go without the traditional sauce at Thanksgiving. The scare continued until it was revealed that one needed to consume, “15,000 pounds of cranberries every day for several years to reach the level of exposure that was found to cause cancer in laboratory rodents.”
To avoid future unsubstantiated health scares, Hamodia offered these tips:
- “Scientists and journalists need to show more caution with these health issues. The researchers need to do a better job of explaining in plain language the limited applicability of their findings. The journalistic community has got to restrain its appetite for sensational stories.”
- “As for the general public, it behooves us to avoid panic, to at least read past the headlines, to the part that describes the research behind the claims, and see whether it supports the headline.”
The Malaysian Palm Oil Council works hard to ensure its palm oil is wholesome, safe and nutritious. It takes the EFSA recommendations seriously. In response to the issue, MPOC CEO Kalyana Sundram wrote, “Our industry succeeds only when consumers trust that what they buy is healthy, sustainable and, above all, safe. The safety and quality assurance of our products remains of the highest priority. The palm oil we sell to any part of the world is subject to the highest standards of quality and safety controls.”