This year’s iodine-related panic launched

Iodine deficiency in babies used to cause widespread irreversible mental retardation in China. Whole villages suffered cretinism for as many generations back as anyone could remember owing to a lack of the mineral in the soil, and thus the diet. Meanwhile, in prosperous, bustling, well-nourished Hong Kong, manufacturers of infant milk formula implicitly discourage nursing mothers from breast-feeding their newborns, and market their pricy canned powder by suggesting that it will boost its little recipients’ intelligence. Use brand X baby food, they pretty much claim, and your child will get into top schools, do well in exams, go to college, become a lawyer and go on to enjoy a life of shiny luxury cars and expensive real estate.

So it is understandable that more than a little panic breaks out when the Hong Kong government withdraws all batches of two Japanese brands of formula from the market because iodine content is ‘rather low’. It is not that the Japanese manufacturers are deliberately trying to stunt little Hongkongers’ future mental abilities. The reason, officials say, is that Japanese mothers have naturally higher levels of iodine, so – presumably – the makers of formula adjust the composition of their product accordingly.

This sounds plausible: the Japanese diet is rich in seafood and seaweed, and thus iodine. But of course the mother’s intake of various nutrients is irrelevant unless she breast-feeds. The implication is that Japanese mothers breastfeed more than their Hong Kong counterparts. Hong Kong women eat plenty of sea produce, too.

There is an opportunity here for the Hong Kong government’s Information Services Department to do something useful and toss out their sillier propaganda campaigns in favour of one that directly links natural mother’s milk with better health and intelligence – that is, something deliberately designed to reduce artificial formula’s market share. I’m sure formula is a pretty acceptable substitute, and I have no doubt that breast-feeding must be a huge inconvenience, but why not openly undermine the formula companies’ dubious claims?

In a similar vein, the government has a lame campaign – you see the posters at the Macau ferry terminal – imploring people not to gamble to excess. Obviously, by definition, you shouldn’t do anything to excess. But why not put out proper hard-hitting ads, telling people clearly what the odds of a decent win are (you’re more likely to be murdered), and humiliating people who gamble at all by stating simply that they are stupid to throw their money away like that?

The answer in both cases, no doubt, is that we must ‘strike a balance’.

On a happier note, the death is announced of one of ex-Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s many ridiculous schemes. This particular one was yet another plot to eradicate Hong Kong as a place where Hong Kong people live and replace it with a tourist zone where local people are shoved aside to make room for Mainlanders and other aliens buying overpriced junk from international chains paying huge rents to our local property developer families.

No-one ever clearly articulated the obnoxiousness of the Tsim Sha Tsui piazza, because it wasn’t so much this single project as a series of decisions that, when you look back, reveal a malevolent bureaucratic mentality. When you add up the removal of the Central Star Ferry pier, the defacement of the TST marine police HQ (reborn as 1881 Heritage) and the plan to relocate the TST bus terminus several minutes’ walk away, the sum is a message. That message says: ‘this part of the city will henceforth serve only interests that profit from tourist traffic; the rest of you can f**k off’.

We are told that the design is unviable essentially for engineering reasons, but the root cause is the clash of local residents’ transport needs with landlords’ desires to attract more overseas shoppers, and the local residents won where the piazza is concerned – something you don’t see everyday.

Nor is this: filial piety – a good wife suckles her toothless mother-in-law while her own baby goes hungry…

Click to hear ‘Safe as Milk’ by Captain Beefheart!

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12 Responses to This year’s iodine-related panic launched

  1. Bela And The Nestlés says:

    You know Hong Kong will never do anything against Grosskapitalismus.

    Mammals of the World Unite!

    Besides the creation of McNuggets, the food industry’s greatest triumph has been to persuade third world mothers that they should feed their babies out of a can.

    It’s all our fault. Check your share portfolio and disinvest! Fight for the right to lactate! Breast is best!

    An unpublished outtake…

    Oh baby milk, my baby milk
    Cos my mother won’t let me drink
    But all you do is make me bad
    Make me sick and leave me sad
    Tell me, what did I do wrong
    To make you make me suffer so long

    ‘Cause mother’s milk, my mother’s milk
    Been missing it, miss sucking it
    Instead of throwing up
    Let’s do some kissing and making up
    Don’t throw your milk away
    In my arms why don’t you stay

  2. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Impeccable logic, with eachword betraying more intelligence than a dozen government press-releases.

    An explanation of HK youth’s anomie: lack of breastfeeding, disenfranchisement and too much flavour powder?

  3. Old Timer says:

    Hong Kong officials have ben unable to get through a single announcement/speech/disclaimer without at least one ‘strike a balance’ since Tung introduced the phrase to the official jargon book just after the handover. He himself rarely got through a day without at least two or three strike-a-balances, conjuring images of him atop a highwire, umrella in one hand, Beijing-begging bowl in the other, one leg in the air, etc.

  4. Real Tax Payer says:

    Actually, I quite like sucking female breasts, with or without iodine

    ( Sorry – that was facile comment)

  5. Tom says:

    Nice to see the back of the TST redevelopment.
    I received a series of emails asking me to withdraw my objection submitted to the planning dept, yet strangely never received any reply to my emails back asking for some – any – evidence to support the claims they put forward.

    Funny, that.

  6. Vile says:

    Damn. I was hoping they’d demolish the bus terminus before discovering the reclamation couldn’t support the weight of a shopping mall. Would have been nice to get rid of the buses and taxis and clear the space a bit. Maybe put a nice lawn in its place.

  7. Stephen says:


    Unfortunately the Govermment’s track record means they will make the place infinitely worse. FFS, 1881 Heritage, possibly one of the the most wanton acts of vandalism seen and you just know it will be the usual favourites who will bastardise the area.

    Lastly here’s a good idea to reduce HK people gambling their money away in Macao – Don’t build a big bridge there.

  8. Pete says:

    Stephen, hear hear. I try to avoid TST these days, the subterranean passageways and lack of pedestrian crossings make it unnavigable anyway and the sight of 1881 never fails to wind me up.

    @ Vile, I’m not sure the bus terminus is on reclamation. It might be the only part of the urban harbourfront which isn’t.

  9. Chimp says:

    Dunno if the TST interchange could get much worse. It probably looked OK back when Pamela Pak was a flight attendant, but it’s a mite rundown now. In fact, it looks like a fucking slum, complete with third world ‘taxis’, touts and a dilapidated terminal building.

    As an aside, note how the ‘new’ Queens Pier terminal has aged. It looks like it was built by a blind, one armed paperhanger. Shabby with extra seed. They don’t make them like they used to.

  10. Sir Crispin says:

    Hemmers, you forgot one part of “Use brand X baby food, they pretty much claim, and your child will get into top schools, do well in exams, go to college, become a lawyer and go on to enjoy a life of shiny luxury cars and expensive real estate.”

    …and will keep me in the splendor and comfort that I demand in my old age.

  11. Reductio says:

    To change tack a bit. All you pollution fans might be interested in this:

    I like the symbolism.

  12. Joe Blow says:

    That brings back memories of all those times I stood at the old bus terminal under the blazing sun waiting for the 5C-hot dog @ $ 1.70 per trip.

    Actually I was hoping they would raze the terminal and make a nice piazza with a Starbucks. All those double-deckers are clogging up and polluting the narrow streets of the Dark Side, and nobody travels by ferry anymore, anyway.

    And when are they going to replace that ghastly Star House ?

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