Australian Chef Under Fire for Paleo Cookbook Aimed at Kids

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Australian health advocates have successfully halted the publication of a celebrity chef’s Paleo diet cookbook that contained recipes for babies that are potentially dangerous.

Heather Yeatman, president of the Public Health Association of Australia, told Australia Women’s Weekly that a baby could possibly die if the book was published. The New York Daily News’ Meredith Engel reports that the publication is now “delayed” according to publisher Pan Macmillan.

The particular recipe in chef Pete Evan’s book that was cited by Yeatman was a formula made from liver and bone broth. A fluid like this would have more than 10 times the vitamin A that babies should ingest and few of the nutrients that a baby needs for nourishment. The overload of vitamin A could cause hair loss and staggered development.

“The baby’s growth and development could be impaired” if this was all he or she was drinking, Yeatman said.

Other recipes in the “Bubba Yum Yum, The Paleo Way” cookbook call for runny eggs, additional salt, and other ingredients that could potentially disrupt a baby’s development. The cookbook is being closely investigated by the country’s Department of Health. Evan wrote in his book that his recipes could prevent autism, behavioral disorders, birth defects, asthma, digestion disorders, and rashes.

The book also included a disclaimer: “[R]elying on the information contained in this publication … may cause negative health consequences.”

Evan’s publicist, who has 785,000 Facebook fans and 47,600 Instagram followers, told the New York Daily News that he would not be making a comment. Neither Evans nor his co-authors are medical doctors, but Evans has said on his speaking tour that he is “spreading the medicine.”

Evans, blogger Charlotte Carr, and naturopath Helen Padarin, the authors of the cookbook, marketed their book as “a treasure trove of nutritional information and nourishing paleo recipes that are guaranteed to put you and your little one on the path to optimum health.”

“In my view, there’s a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead,” Yeatman told the Women’s Weekly. Especially if [the DIY formula] was the only food a parent was feeding their infant, it’s a very real risk.”

Melissa Davey of The Guardian says the World Health Organization and the federal Department of Health are in favor of breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life. If a mother cannot breastfeed, infant formulas may be used since they have been designed based on research and evidence to be an appropriate alternative.

The diet described in the Paleo cookbook is not in line with Australian dietary guidelines for adults or children. Tim Gill, professor of public health and nutrition with the University of Sydney’s Boden Institute of Obesity, said:

“One of the most important things about a child’s diet is getting them to experience as many different tastes, textures and components of food as possible,” Gill said. “It is important to set children up to accept a range of foods, and a restrictive diet is counterproductive to that.

Infants are at a high risk of food-borne pathogens, so foods that are prepared improperly or in a non-sterile manner can put babies at risk of infection.

Lin Taylor, reporting for Australia’s SBS, writes that Tamarah Katz, a pediatric dietitian at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick, calls Evan’s plan irresponsible and dangerous. Katz adds that claiming that a diet can cure illness may give families a false sense of hope. Also, she explains that adults may want to experiment with fad diets, but it is the parents’ duty to take care of their children and give them a diet that is tried, tested, and safe.

Hospitality Magazine, in an article by Aoife Boothroyd, reports that Evans began deleting comments from health professionals on his public Facebook page last December, which raised concerns that Evans was blocking the ability of the public to raise a balanced argument. Tim Crowe, associate professor and nutrition academic with the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University, said:

“If someone has a Facebook page, they are entitled to block people and delete comments – that’s up to them. But Pete has a very big media profile now with hundreds of thousands of people involved and he has some ethical responsibility in how he goes about operating it.”