Butter vs. margarine fat:

Michael R. James, author of the “Butter not margarine, s’il vous plaît” article (Dec 16, item 14), writes: With Barbara Eden’s reply (comments, yesterday) by my count Crikey has now clarified this butter four times, so it is well and truly ghee. Whether Crikey readers have had their understanding clarified is another matter. Eden begins that my “main criticism was of the margarine manufacturing process”. No it was one of 5 points, plus a large table of data. She suggests that the creation of solid fat from liquid oil uses something other than hydrogenation, but I think she means that trans-fats are purified away, post-synthesis, to varying levels then mixed with non-hydrogenated oils to create the spreadable blend. I did in fact write “though today manufacturers often remove enough (trans-fats) to be below mandatory label reporting levels”. We’ll have to take her word (or not) on the remnant level of trans-fats as its listing on labels is not mandatory in Australia. In the US listing is mandatory at 4% or above.

It is extraordinarily simplistic of the Heart Foundation to treat natural meat and dairy trans-fats and synthetic trans-fats as if all are equal, or even that the fatty acids that eventually form atherosclerotic plaque on arterial walls can only come from ingested fats—our livers transform all kinds of molecules, including common sugar, into those fatty acids. The NHMRC updated Australian Dietary Guidelines report says “The evidence base has strengthened for: the association between the consumption of milk and decreased risk of heart disease and some cancers” which was consistent with my statement “Paradoxically many natural animal trans-fats, including the type in milk, have the opposite effect, ie. they reduce LDL-cholesterol.” Nothing from the Heart Foundation is consistent with the simplified version of the original table. 

Even if, arguably, margarine has cleaned up its act recently, it still leaves most of that “50-year history of providing information to Australians” recommending a product that was a cause of poor heart health, not the claimed benefits which turned out to be scientific nonsense. Crikey readers can decide whether the promotion of this industrial product on the basis of promoting better health stands on evidence, rather than increasingly discredited and simplistic condemnation of natural and full-fat dairy.

Until the late 1960s when it was allowed to be artificially coloured to resemble butter, no one would touch the unappealing translucent white gunk. Nothing much has changed with the Heart Foundation campaign to get us to eat margarine still relying upon PR spin and anti-science obfuscation — nothing more than lipstick on a pig — to get the public to eat this stuff.

Keith Thomas writes: In a self congratulatory contribution yesterday Barbara Eden declared “We [at the National Heart Foundation of Australia ] are very proud of our 50-year history of providing information to Australians who wish to make healthier choices and reduce their risk of heart disease.” This is an unreasonable claim in the light of their switch on eggs.

After advising Australians for decades that eating eggs was a health risk, their website now tells us “… it’s OK to eat eggs — you can enjoy up to six eggs each week as part of a healthy balanced diet . They are an essential part of any healthy eating plan”. Poultry farmers across the country, as well as our health, suffered needlessly from the excoriation of eggs; and in the popular imagination, the superseded NHF message lingers. Was there an apology? Were damages paid to egg producers? Is there any reference on the NHF’s website to the switch?

Beryce Nelson writes: More of the same hair-splitting nonsense from the NHF on types of fats while they still appear blind to the fact that sugar is as big a villain as fat in causing obesity, heart disease and associated diseases. They have lost credibility and don’t appear to recognise it. Perhaps they will notice when their key donations start to dry up.

The asylum seeker dilemma:

Gavin Greenoak writes: Re: “Rundle: Refugee debate dominated by compromise, not core promises” (yesterday, item 2). Why not set up a ship or ships processing station(s). Thence “let it be known…”, that boats carrying people must stop (or be intercepted) at the ship stations where refugee status and boat seaworthiness can be checked, and returns and safe passage supervised.

Given that the failure of “legality” as this might refer to protections, rights and safeguards, is the basis for refugee status, “smuggling” must be the only way of escape for which risks are implicit. Surely some self-responsibility (consistent with an essential meaning of “Freedom”) must be granted to people choosing to take these risks.  The scope of another governments responsibilities is limited by the circumstances over which it has effective (and legitimate) control. A limitation which applies equally to who might be to blame when something goes badly wrong.

Joe Boswell writes: When Rundle wrote about an aspect of asylum seeker policy, “We make such trade-offs in situations like the seat-belt one, of clear knowledge and limited impact on rights,” it would have been better if he had written, “We *should only* make such trade-offs …” There are glaring examples, such as mandatory cycle helmet laws, where in place of clear knowledge there is nothing more than an effective lobby of pro-compulsion bigots, and the impact on rights is only limited in the sense that it affects cyclists, not the general population.

Les Heimann writes: Re. Crikey‘s editorial yesterday: “… no policy to address the need to reduce the risk of asylum seekers risking their lives to reach Australia.” Why should any Australian government, or opposition party, have such a policy?

And no; this is not a mean or uncaring question — in fact it is almost impossible for one nation to have such a policy short of such that provides for a ferry service from Indonesia (and elsewhere) with that country’s permission. This is a nonsense.

It is equally a nonsense to fret about “offshore processing” because that is not, and really never was, a deterrent (if in fact that’s why it used to exist). The entire refugee debate has now become a complete farce — particularly the childish position taken by Tony Abbott. One has to say enough is enough, shut up all of you and enjoy the festive season.

As for those who risk their lives in boats and pay much money to do so – go catch a plane, thousands of your compatriots do so daily. However, if you want to risk your lives and the lives of your children to reach the land of milk and honey don’t expect Australia to help you do so.

We should help those who need asylum instead of death or persecution in the land they had to flee; and Australia will do so through appropriate refugee camps, or formal application or step off a plane or even  if unfortunately they wash up on our shores.

We will process these unfortunate people in Australia and help them start a new life in our country under our laws. And that we can do, with a good heart and a helping hand — and no more.

Peter Fray

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