Nov 302011

Ms World in €5M product-placement row


30 November 2061

The promoters of this year’s Ms World beauty contest were dismayed when the winning contestant Heidi Hussein (Ms Germany) thrust a tube of the skin cream AxAcne at cameras filming the show live on Saturday. Her gesture, seen by more than 3 billion people worldwide, brought the makers of the anti-acne cream publicity that some estimate would have cost more than €5M if purchased as product placement advertising. Neither Heidi Hussein nor Ms World Productions would reveal how much they had been paid.
BrazilChem, makers of AxAcne, said that Ms Hussein’s agent had contacted them when she became one of the 10 short-listed contestants, saying that as a teenager she has suffered badly from acne and that she had used their product successfully and felt she ‘owed it all’ to AxAcne.

“It is our intention to sponsor many of the events Ms Patel will be taking part in during the coming year” said company spokesperson Dr Tracey Schmidt. ‘We see nothing wrong in this. As you know, millions of young people suffered from acne down the ages leaving them with permanently scarred complexions, but this is a thing of the past thanks to the new treatment which was discovered at the Brasilia Dermatological Research Center ten years ago.”

Nov 232011

Bottled water is purer and so healthier

In fact drinking bottled water in a western country is bad for your wealth, and bad for the planet. Nor is it good for your health as often claimed. By all means carry a bottle of water around with you, but fill it up every day from your kitchen tap. And when you are in a restaurant ask for a jug of water. Don’t be fooled into buying water, because this might simply come in a bottle that has been refilled from a tap.

Bottled water is bad for the environment because it wastes a lot of energy spent collecting, bottling, and transporting it, often from sources that are ridiculously far from where it is sold, such as from melting glaciers or remote islands in the Pacific. Some bottled water is transported more than ten thousand miles before it is drunk.

You need only drink bottled water when you suspect that the only water available has not been through the kind of treatment that we take for granted. The most important part of water treatment, after filtration, is to make sure it is free of pathogens such as the water-borne diseases cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and meningitis. These are all killed when the water is treated with sodium hypochlorite solution, often incorrectly called ‘chlorine bleach’ by those who are opposed to it.

Even when you find the water has enough residual hypochlorite to be detectable, this simply means that the water company has tested the water for microbes, found the levels are higher than normal, and so has had to use more hypochlorite to ensure it is safe for you to drink.

Rather than spend money on bottled water, why not spend it on fresh fruit instead. Now that really would be a healthier thing to do.

Nov 172011

Just how cheap can a simple meal be? That was the challenge issued by the Royal Society of Chemistry and I found what I thought was the answer in a 150-year-old book, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management published in 1861. This is a compendium of hundreds of recipes and tips, and it is still in print. There among its pages it the toast sandwich. This is not a toasted sandwich but a sandwich in which the filling is a slice of toast. This is so simple to make, but does it provide a nutritious snack and how little can it cost?

Toast sandwich recipe

Toast a thin slice of bread.
Butter two slices of bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the slice of toast between the 2 slices of bread-and-butter to form a sandwich.

Rather surprisingly a toast sandwich is pleasant to eat, but the salt and pepper are essential ingredients.


3 slices of white bread = 3 x 80 = 240 Calories
Butter = 10 g = 90 Calories (Margarine would provide the same.)
Total = 330 Calories

The sandwich will provide the following dietary nutrients:
Protein = 9.5 g
Fat = 12 g
Carbohydrate = 55 g
Fibre = 4.5 g
Calcium = 120 mg
Iron = 2 mg
Vitamin A = 90 μg
Vitamin B1 = 0.25 mg
Vitamin B2 = 80 μg
Vitamin B3 = 4 mg
Vitamin D = 0.08 μg

[From Nutrient Content of Food Portions, by Jill Davies and John Dickerson, published by RSC 1991.]


Depending on where the bread and butter/margarine are purchased, the RSC has calculated that a toast sandwich can cost as little as 7.5 pence and they have challenged others to provide an austerity meal that is as cheaper and as nourishing. The reward for doing so is £200. Of course cheaper meals are possible, but can they match the target of 330 Calories and still provide a range of nutrients?

At a later date I hope to report on whether such a meal can be made.