"Excess chocolate has been linked to dental caries and obesity, and obesity has been linked to a significantly higher risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, gall bladder disease, liver disease, and heart disease and stroke, and to a small increased risk of cancer."Now, before anyone goes all Daily Mail on us, I was selective with the quotations there as the article makes it clear that this was just a public health industry in-joke. Har-di-bloody har, Nathan. Doing the circuit with Lembit soon, are you?
The Easter Bunny's role is to sell chocolate to children and, according to the World Health Organization, such advertising contributes to children being overweight and obese and is an important area for preventive action, [Australian public health specialist] Dr [Nathan] Grills said.
"Given the Easter Bunny's potential for good, it could become a public health pin-up bunny, supporting campaigns that encourage children to eat the recommended daily five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit," Dr Grills said.
"Chocolate egg hunts could become brussels sprout hunts! After all, the Easter Bunny itself would advocate for this change, given that bunnies do not digest chocolate particularly well."
It's not a first for Dr Grills, though, since he was the author of a report condemning Santa as a health pariah in 2009, as highlighted at the time by VGIF.
What a jolly life these public health guys lead, eh? So awash are they with funding, that there's plenty of time available to file droll reports and produce press releases detailing their frivolous japes.
Except they're not really that funny, are they?
Oh, don't get me wrong. In an ideal world we would put Nathan's head under our arm, give him a playful noogie and amicably call him a fun-loving prankster. But public health obsessives destroyed that world a long time ago.
By way of entirely-unrelated example, back in 1995 one of us on an all-male beano to the Canaries was asked at the airport check-in if he had packed his case himself, to which he replied to much (partially inebriated) laughter "no, a kind middle-eastern gentleman did it for me". The Monarch airlines staff member just gave him a wry grin. Do the same now and he'd most likely be arrested.
It's not funny anymore once the threat is serious, is it?
Likewise, Nathan's 'comedy' just doesn't hit the mark for the simple reason that it's perfectly feasible that some health nutter will be advocating such a thing in the future ... without the tongue planted in his (or, more likely, her) cheek.
In fact, Nathan's Santa study had already been overtaken by events when he published it. Firstly, by the US Surgeon General himself in 2007 and subsequently by anti-obesity fruitloop MeMe Roth, whose description of Santa's portrayal on Coke packaging was "I see a warning label. Drink this, and look how your body will look."
Which would tend to explain why Nathan's jovial dig at the big guy didn't go down very well.
Around the world, Grills has been attacked as a mean-spirited Christmas killjoy. His e-mail inbox is filled with condemnations. He’s so besieged by angry calls that he won’t answer the telephone, so I couldn’t talk to him for an interview. We had to correspond via e-mail.He has been very careful not to replicate that experience this time by making the satirical nature of his Easter Bunny piece absolutely crystal.
However, since we can be pretty certain that the same arguments will be advanced by the public health community in the future - this time with a perfectly straight face - it's just not funny, Nathan. Sorry.
Unless, of course, his idea of humour is informing a condemned man of his execution that very day, before admitting it was just a leg-pull ... it's next week really.