Is there a difference between banning a book and recalling a book for its content?
In Australia and New Zealand, a cookbook is being recalled because government health experts think its intended audience–pregnant women—could do themselves or their babies harm if they used it as a meal-making guide.
And the publisher, ACP Magazines Ltd., is not only going along with a voluntary recall, but is also doing some paid advertising to say it will pay to get its books back.
The book getting all this attention is “The Happy Baby Cookbook,” which first went on sale last August.
As explained by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), the cookbook contains recipes for pregnant women that are made with ingredients that food safety officials believe could harm a woman or her unborn child if eaten during pregnancy.
Donald Campbell, NZFSA’s principal public health advisor, says some foods that we might normally think of as healthy and nutritious can be risky for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
“Because a woman’s immune system is less robust than usual when pregnant, it makes her more at risk of getting diseases carried by food, and her illnesses may be worse than it would normally have been,” Campbell says. “Also her baby may get an infection either before or during delivery.”
Listeria and Salmonella are among the concerns NZHSA has for pregnant women. Shaved ham and soft cheeses are among the foods that have been linked to Listeria, which typically causes flu-like symptoms. Sometimes, however, Listeria can cause premature labor in pregnant women and might bring on a fatal infection in the newborn.
Campbell says expectant mothers should eat a nutritious and varied diet, but still must avoid some foods they might normally eat. “Hummus for example is packed with protein, but because most hummus is made with tahini which has been associated with Salmonella outbreaks, we recommend pregnant women don’t eat it,” he added
While the book recall has been underway for about five weeks in both New Zealand and Australia, it has not generated much discussion. Food blogs in the two countries have carried the bare basics of the recall, but no one has challenged it.
Food Safety News could not obtain a copy of the book. However, the offending passages may be limited to some of the recipes in a “food for pregnant women” chapter that suggested ingredients that the Australian Food Authority found harmful to pregnant women.
NZFSA has taken advantage of the book recall to push its own “Food Safety in Pregnancy” booklet for maternity caregivers. On its list of forbidden foods for pregnant women are soft cheeses, ready-to-eat meats, raw fish, shellfish, deli salads, sushi, and foods containing raw eggs.
As for “The Happy Baby Cookbook,” the publisher is asking customers to return the book with an offer to reimburse the purchase price and pay postage.