FAT PROFITS AND MUMMY GUILT

As a mother, you just can’t win.

Eat a piece of ham while you’re pregnant and you’ll get listeria.

Put the baby on the bottle and you’re close to committing child abuse.

Now if you have a caesarean, your baby is at risk of obesity.

Except it’s all bunkum.

This is a tale of a Big Food company guilting mothers into buying probiotics, and the paediatrician who’s along for the ride.

Yesterday, Fairfax published a preview of a paper to be presented in Sydney today by Finnish paediatrician Erika Isolauri.

The headline screamed, C-section Babies at Higher Risk of Obesity.

According to Professor Isolauri, babies who are exposed to protective bacteria in the birth canal can maintain a healthier weight later in life.

I can hear the howls of the self-righteous: “That’ll teach those selfish mothers, too posh to push. Serves ‘em right!”

But for most of the one-in-three Australian women who have a caesarean, it’s not a choice.

I had a rare condition called Complete Placenta Previa.

Prior to the advent of the C-section, it was one of the main reasons for death during childbirth.

Had I opted for a natural delivery, we both would have bled to death.

If I have predisposed Taj to a lifetime of obesity, so be it. Except, I haven’t.

Professor Isolauri’s research focuses on good bacteria, not bad food, in a child’s gut.

Let’s start with the bad food.

The Professor has travelled the world courtesy of Nestle, famous for the Milky Bar, Milo, Rowntree confectionary, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and sugar-laden cereals.

She’s written a book for the Nestle Nutrition Workshop Series.

And today, she’s a keynote speaker at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand and Federation of Asia and Oceania Perinatal Societies congress, sponsored by Nestle and Pfizer Nutrition.

Both companies are at the forefront of promoting probiotics to ‘substitute’ the good bacteria babies might miss out on if they’re born by caesarean or bottle-fed.

It’s kids’ play to join the dots on this one.

In 2009, Nestle launched a probiotic drink, Boost Kid Essentials.

The following year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission accused the company of false advertising.

“Nestle’s claims that its probiotic product would prevent kids from getting sick or missing school just didn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of probiotics on children.

Yet Big Food continues to guilt mothers into believing they should buy these products to keep their kids healthy.

I can see the ad now.

The camera zooms in on a smiling mother playing with her little boy.

Storm clouds begin to gather.

“Naughty Mummy. You took the easy way out. No natural birth for you. Then you put him straight on the bottle. But that doesn’t matter anymore, because of Probiotic Plus. All that good bacteria little Johnny missed out on is now available in a neat little pack. Just $9.99. From Nestle. Good Food, Good Life.”

Don’t believe the hype.

Kids aren’t becoming obese because of c-sections.

It’s because they eat bad food and don’t do enough exercise.

The real story is the fat profits the multinationals are making from mothers’ guilt.