Celebrities Are Not Always Smart

We’ve told you plenty about celebrities here in the United States and their ill-informed food activism, but the problem isn’t confined to this side of the Atlantic. The United Kingdom has its share of celebrities who apparently have little to do other than repeat fear-filled food myths. They’re not getting a free pass in the UK either, the Guardian reports. The nonprofit Sense About Science has collected some of the most ridiculous statements by celebrities and matched them up with rebuttals from actual scientists. Not all the claims concern food (one environmental radiochemist takes on Madonna’s musings on “neutralizing radiation”), but several of the best ones do. For example, here’s one “fact” commonly used by anti-meat activists that gets skewered:

The actor Joanna Lumley is quoted on a vegan website, making a link between cancer and diet, and saying: “We cannot go on force-feeding animals chemicals and growth stimulants the way we are. Why do you think cancer is roaring ahead at the moment?”

John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer is not ‘roaring ahead’. It is more common mostly because people are living longer. It is essential that ‘cancer causing’ claims are based only on scientifically proven facts, not scaremongering.

Under the heading “Warning! Natural doesn’t mean better,” the nonprofit’s brochure highlights model Elle Macpherson’s endorsement of organic food for being pesticide- and additive-free. As a toxicologist responds: “Pesticides are a necessary part of agriculture and residues will appear infrequently — on organic and conventional produce alike. However, permitted residue levels are so low that even regular eating of food containing pesticides at the maximum levels wouldn’t do you any harm.” A dietitian chimes in with the observation that food additives are tightly regulated and can in fact prevent harm by, for example, warding off spoilage. Celebrity animal-rights activist Heather Mills McCartney’s attempt to link milk consumption to obesity gets a similar scientific smackdown, with a Cambridge physiologist telling the nonprofit: “It is not true to say that children who gain the most weight are doing so because of milk consumption.” Another actress gets skewered for claiming that recent scientific advances have rendered animal testing unnecessary for medical research, a claim parroted constantly by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A Manchester University physiologist responds: “Unfortunately, if we want new medicines for diseases like cancer or cystic fibrosis, there are some cases where there are no alternatives to using animals.

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