Every so often, Pete Evans dishes out some questionable advice, is soundly criticised by actual experts, and every time here in the Crikey bunker we ask the same question: why is Pete Evans still a thing?
The My Kitchen Rules judge has been gracing free-to-air TV since 2010 when the cooking show first started. But it’s his controversies that he’s best known for.
Earlier this month the Australian Medical Association (AMA) — the body representing Australia’s doctors — called on streaming platform Netflix to remove documentary The Magic Pill, which Evans produced and stars in. Their calls got traction in the media (the ABC fact checked the film last week).
But all this doesn’t seem to bother MKR’s producers or Seven, which airs the show. Here’s just a few of the times Evans has been out of step with the science.
Activated almonds, November, 2012
The interview that first made out Evans as a little kooky was the usually-innocuous My Day on a Plate column in Fairfax’s Sunday magazine. He was mercilessly mocked for his diet, which he said included activated almonds, alkalised water and cultured vegies.
Fluoride free, 2014
Evans has long spoken against fluoride in tap water (good news for water filter manufacturers). In 2014 he was meeting with a group called Fluoride Free, which claims water fluoridation leads to disease, the Daily Telegraph reported. He was quoted as saying he doesn’t touch tap water: “This is definitely something that I am passionate about because I am a father and I care about future generations and where we’re headed.”
Bone broth for babies, April, 2015
A paleo diet book for babies co-authored by Evans that included a recipe for bone broth — potentially fatal for babies — was shelved by publisher Pan Macmillan Australia after public health experts aired their concerns about feeding infants the broth. The book was self-published with amendments to the recipe and the age it was recommended for.
Sunscreen is toxic, July, 2016
Evans told his Facebook followers in a Q&A that sunscreen was “poisonous chemicals”, and he didn’t use it. Current evidence says sunscreen is safe.
He said his tan helped protect him from the sun, but it hasn’t protected him from further ridicule. His weight and tan shocked viewers when the 2013 season of My Kitchen Rules started, and just last month he got caught up in bizarre banter about whether his tan was fake. He responded by posting an almost-nude photo of himself on Instagram.
Eating dairy removes calcium from your bones, August, 2016
Again going against all expert advice, Evans advised one of his fans on Facebook asking about her osteoporosis to go paleo, removing dairy from her diet “as calcium from dairy can remove the calcium from your bones … most doctors do not know this information.”
It’s a claim doctors and osteoporosis experts reject. Osteoporosis Australia told news.com.au: “That is just not true. The keystone to preventing osteoporosis is adequate calcium intake and this is achieved by three (daily) serves of calcium-rich foods like dairy. Dairy is the most easily available source and has the highest calcium content in it.”
“What do you need a qualification for to talk common sense?”, March, 2017
Evans tried to smooth over his reputation and answer his critics in an interview on Sunday Night, aired on Seven, the same network as My Kitchen Rules. He was asked why he gave medical advice when he didn’t have any qualifications in the area, to which he replied: “What do you need a qualification for to talk common sense? Why do you have to study something that is outdated, that is industry-backed, that is biased, that is not getting the results? That would be insane to study something that you’re gonna waste your time with? That’s just crazy, it’s just crazy.”
The Magic Pill documentary, 2017
The film, produced by and starring Evans, has been in the news again since the AMA petitioned streaming website Netflix to remove it from its offerings on the basis that it is “irresponsible”. It advocates the ketogenic diet as a treatment for autism, asthma and cancer — claims that experts told the ABC are “speculative”, “questionable” and “simplistic”.
AMA president Tony Bartone told Guardian Australia the film’s portrayal of the ketogenic diet could have harmful effects. “A ketogenic diet is not without risk and it really should be performed in conjunction with a medical practitioner,” he said. “A long term ketogenic diet can be associated with unhealthy weight loss, kidney stones, and in children can lead to nutritional deficiencies and immune system issues.”