Cookbook for Expectant Mothers Recalled

happybabycookbookA cookbook for pregnant women, The Happy Baby Cookbook from Australian Women's Weekly, is being recalled in New Zealand and Australia due to concerns over its nutritional recommendations. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority takes issue with certain recipes in the book that contain ingredients that "food safety officials believe could harm a woman or her unborn child if eaten during pregnancy." It's unclear what these specific ingredients are, although Food Safety News speculates they may be talking about cured meats, soft cheese, and hummus.

We're not experts on gestational nutrition, but it seems to us it's a pretty tricky landscape to navigate and that there are probably several different approaches depending on who you ask. Unless the book is recommending a nightly gin and tonic, is there really not room for it among what are surely hundreds of nutritional guides for pregnant women? The article cited above asks whether there is a difference between banning a book and "recalling it for its content," and we say: semantics?

—Paula Forbes

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  1. Deli meats and certain soft cheeses are foods that are higher risk for Listeria bacteria, which KILLS fetuses, this is the main risk, and pregnant women are the main risk group for this bacteria. My family doctor lost twins after eating Listeria laden Brie. Whether or not people are comfortable taking these risks by eating these foods is a controversial, personal opinion but a cookbook claiming to educate pregnant women on nutrition in pregnancy should not include these higher risk foods that most medical establishments warn against.

    • Paula Forbes

      No doubt Listeria is a major concern, and I'm not trying to belittle that. I'm saying that governments getting involved in matters of content is a slippery slope.

      • Slippery slope arguments don't really work that well. After all, helping people to publish incorrect recommendations for pregnant women also is a slippery slope. If you publish that, why not publish books that say lead supplements make for excellent brain development for babies?

        That said, this book isn't being banned or recalled by the government of New Zealand. From the sounds of the article you link to, the government of NZ went to the publisher and suggested they recall it due to incorrect content. And the publisher agreed. (And the publishers were smart to do so. Nothing quite like a mom with a dead Listeria baby to sue a publisher out of existence).

  2. If it's information marketed at pregnant women that could cause them to unkowningly, and accidently kill their wanted babies, then I think recalls are appropriate, just as faulty car seats, toxic water bottles etc are

    • Moira

      Ummm - aren't we really comparing apples and orages here?

      Anything that can be described as either faulty or toxic, is be definition, bad, as is any contaminated food. But deli meats and soft cheese do not, as a matter of course, contain listeria, so they are not automatically dangerous. And many other foods can also become contaminated, such as fruits and vegetables, which pregnant women are strongly encourage to eat.

      As you point out, the amount of risk a person is willing to take with food is personal, if controversial. Couldn't they just have asked the authors of the book to acknowledge the risks of certain foods, and then left it to the reader to decide which recipes they are willing to make?

  3. Paula Forbes

    The listeria/deli meats/soft cheese critique is speculation on the part of Food Safety News, and as they were not able to acquire a copy of the book, we're not actually sure what the offending ingredients were or why they were an issue. I was hoping that due to the speculative nature of the concerns we would be able to have a different conversation than the one we appear to be having - that is, I was hoping we could talk about government health agencies weighing in on recipe contents.

    I realize now, however, that this particular case is a very sensitive subject, and I apologize if anyone thought I was trying to promote anyone deliberately spreading harmful information.

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