DIETETIC OBSESSIONS


If we examine the pamphlet in detail we find that it embodies all the current superstitions of the modern research laboratory, and also perpetuates some old ones. Thus, infants from seven to nine months are to be given broth or gravy. In fact, the diets from nine months onwards could scarcely be worse conceived.


(From The Vegetarian News).

THE B.B.C. have recently issued a pamphlet called The Days Food, The Days Food : Six Months to Five Years. Issued in connection with the Series of Morning Talks on “Weaning and After” to be broadcast by Doctors. British Broadcasting Corporation, 2d. which has been drawn up by a well-known childrens specialist and gives directions for the feeding of infants from the age of six months to five years. To a vegetarian it is an offensive pamphlet in that it asserts that flesh food is “most necessary for growth” of the child, and that beef, mutton, tripe, brains and chicken are all good.

Let me be willing to concede that it is no crime for the author, whoever he be, never to have met any indigenous life-vegetarians, in view of their relatively small numbers. But, surely, to be so grossly ignorant of comparative nutrition as not to know that many millions of the earths population have not eaten flesh food for innumerable generations is very nearly a crime ! If the author knows but ignores this fact, then he deliberately falsifies facts fro his own ends; if he does not know this fact, then it is quite obvious that he has no claim to be a specialist in child nutrition.

If we examine the pamphlet in detail we find that it embodies all the current superstitions of the modern research laboratory, and also perpetuates some old ones. Thus, infants from seven to nine months are to be given broth or gravy. As these articles have no nutritive value and are full of extractives which chiefly increase the waste to be excreted, I presume that they are advised in order to initiate in the child the taste for meat to be given at a later date. Broth and gravy can be safely omitted.

Then, cod-liver oil (we are told) must be given to the child each day, and this at a time when it is getting five breast-feeds. Why ? Cod-liver oil also can be safely omitted. Then, in the weaning table, no fewer than five teaspoonfuls of sugar are advised each day (to be added to the drink). Again I ask, Why ? I believe sugar, especially cane sugar (and no kind of sugar is specified), to be inadvisable for infants and I have assisted in rearing numbers of them successfully without it. Sugar, therefore, can also safely be omitted. The sugar obsession-largely a quite recent one, by the way-continues throughout the diet.

The flesh obsession begins to apply at nine months, when pounded-up white fish is advised and red gravy or soup is to be poured over the dinner for “flavouring”. But experience shows that fish is not necessary, and can advantageously be omitted. But if fish cannot be given, “a little underdone meat” is advised, and we are told that it is of the greatest importance that meat, fish or egg be given every day. I know of many strapping vegetarian children who did not have more than two eggs a week at this age, if as many. Certainly, it is not essential for one of these to be given every day.

From one to two years the diet gallops along, and it is recommended to include orange-juice with sugar, peeled apples, rusk of plain biscuit, fingers of bread fried in bacon-fat, jam without seeds, dripping, brains, sponge-cake, sweet pudding, stewed rabbit and tripe. Ye goods ! and no mention of any raw green food-and everything to he well mashed, apparently no roughage allowed.

This is perpetuating ancient superstitions with a vengeance ! As the years go on the pace quickens and at three years of age, at each breakfast, the child is to have either an egg or a small rasher of bacon; at dinner, rabbit, tripe, brains, egg or fish, with milk pudding, junket or bread pudding; and (a) toast, butter and cake (or biscuit), or (b) toast, butter, banana, biscuit and jam (or treacle), or (c) toast and butter and stale grated cheese, for tea. In addition to all this, we are told, the child must have at least a pint of milk a day ! Here, I confess, words fail me in my search for the most suitable comment.

In the final pages, devoted to food values, the following paragraph occurs : “Lastly, but most important of all, all children, no matter how they are fed, should receive a regular supply of cod-liver oil each day, either in the form of pure oil or as an emulsion.” This, perhaps, is the principal modern superstition engendered by the laboratory. All the children whose rearing I have advised upon have had no cod-liver oil (nor halibut oil either), and none has developed any evident rickets or other disease attributable to its absence. Curiously enough, in a recent test, cows milk was found to be a better preventive of rickets than cod-liver oil.

Bertrand P. Pallinson